Hundreds of Taliban fighters launched a raid on several checkposts manned by local police in the Jalriz district of eastern Wardak province on Thursday night, triggering a battle that lasted around 24 hours.
Around 23 Afghan Local Police — a militia hired and controlled by the government — were killed, officials said, with some of the dead bodies decapitated.
President Ashraf Ghani termed the killings a “war crime” and called for an investigation, according to a statement issued from his office on Sunday.
Hundreds of fresh forces who arrived in Jalrez on Saturday took back territory lost to the insurgents, but the families of the victims — all from the Hazara ethnic minority — said the government had failed to provide ammunition and reinforcements in time.
“It is all because of the government’s negligence, there were a lot of police and army checkposts around Jalrez but nobody cared. The government is responsible for their deaths,” Mohammad Aref, the nephew of one of the fallen commanders said.
He said his uncle, Mohammed, also known as Sia, was in touch with his family right before he died.
“In his last call he told us that he had only seven bullets left, he said goodbye and hung up. We never heard from him again.”
In Kabul over the weekend, several hundred people protested against the government’s handling of the incident, which prominent Hazara politician Mohammad Mohaqiq, second vice for executive directorate of the government called a “catastrophe.”
The Jalrez raid was the latest in a series of brazen Taliban attacks since the group began their annual spring offensive in April.
Fighting on multiple fronts and facing record casualties, Afghan forces totaling 350,000 are struggling to rein in militants following the end of Nato’s combat mission last December.