ISLAMABAD, PAKISTAN - Taliban attacks have killed at least 30 security personnel while dozens of police officers have been injured in clashes with angry protesters in western Kabul, according to Afghan officials.
Members of the minority Shi’ite Hazara community took to the streets Monday for a second day in the capital to protest the arrest of a controversial militia commander.
At a news conference, Deputy Interior Minister Gen. Akhtar Ibrahimi said the city police attempted to disperse the crippling protest when they came under attack from the crowd. He said the violence injured 48 policemen and four of them received bullet wounds.
Organizers said police opened fire at a Sunday rally, killing six protesters and injuring at least 20 others.
Ibrahimi denied police used “live ammunition” against the demonstrators. He did not confirm fatalities among protesters. Claims from both sides could not be immediately verified.
The protest has paralyzed routine life, business and education activities in the usually bustling part of the capital.
Demonstrators had been demanding the government release “innocent” Abdul Ghani Alipoor, a Shi’ite militia commander from the western Afghan province of Ghor.
The Afghan spy agency, the National Directorate of Security, detained Alipoor on Sunday for allegedly running an illegal armed group of hundreds of men who are blamed for extortion and other criminal activities in the region. The government late Monday freed Alipoor, defusing the protests.
Ibrahimi had called on Alipoor's supporters to allow the legal and judicial institutions to determine Alipoor's innocence or guilt. The commander’s supporters also staged demonstrations in central Bamiyan and northern Balkh provinces.
Deadly Taliban attacks
Meanwhile, officials in western Farah province, near the Iranian border, said Taliban insurgents ambushed an Afghan police convoy, killing 22 officers and injuring five others. A newly-appointed district chief was said to be among the dead.
Separately, at least eight Afghan soldiers were reported killed and three others wounded when the Taliban attacked an army base in the Qaisar district of northern Faryab province.
The Taliban claimed responsibility, with a spokesman saying the group staged both attacks. He gave a much higher death toll for Afghan forces, although insurgent claims are often inflated.
President Ashraf Ghani announced earlier this month that Afghan security forces have lost nearly 29,000 personal since 2015.
Security in the South Asian nation has been deteriorating, with the U.N. Assistance Mission in Afghanistan recording the highest number of civilians killed and wounded, almost 1,700, between January and June of this year. The increasingly deadly Afghan war marked its 17th anniversary recently.
The United States is trying to jump-start negotiations with the Taliban to help find a road map to peace. U.S. Special Envoy Zalmay Khalilzad was in the region for more than a week this month. He met Taliban representatives in Doha, Qatar, as well as various factions of Afghan society.