Taliban fighters on Saturday attacked a convoy carrying Afghanistan’s Vice President Abdul Rashid Dostum in an assault that left the former warlord unscathed but killed one of his bodyguards, an official said.
On the other hand, nine Afghan policemen were killed when Taliban fighters stormed their checkpoints and launched a follow-up ambush in the eastern Afghanistan city of Ghazni, officials said on Saturday.
Enayatullah Babur, Dostum’s former chief of staff, said the hour-long attack also left several others in the convoy wounded. The attack occurred in the northern province of Balkh, where Dostum had held a rally earlier in the day.
On Twitter, a Taliban spokesman said the insurgent group had carried out the attack and claimed four of Dostum´s bodyguards had been killed.
Dostum, a powerful ethnic Uzbek leader, is notorious in Afghanistan for extreme barbarities and for repeatedly switching loyalties over 40 years of conflict. Despite a catalogue of war crimes attached to his name and accusations of organising the rape and torture of a political rival, Dostum became Afghanistan´s first vice president in 2014.
At the rally in Balkh, Dostum had claimed he could clear northern Afghanistan of the Taliban within six months — if only the government would let him.
In delayed elections now slated for September, President Ashraf Ghani has chosen to run with Amrullah Saleh, an ethnic Tajik, instead of Dostum. Dostum has survived several other attempts on his life, including one claimed by the Islamic State group last July in Kabul that killed 23 people including AFP driver Mohammad Akhtar.
Meanwhile nine Afghan policemen were killed when Taliban fighters stormed their checkpoints and launched a follow-up ambush in the eastern Afghanistan city of Ghazni, officials said on Saturday.
The assault began early Friday when the Taliban attacked two adjacent checkpoints, Ghazni police spokesman Ahmad Khan Seerat told AFP. The Taliban then ambushed a group of police rushing to the scene, killing the local police head, Seerat added. In all, nine policemen were killed and six were wounded, he said.
Arif Noori, spokesman for the Ghazni governor, confirmed the toll.
In August, Taliban fighters briefly held Ghazni, a city of about 300000 people some 150 kilometres southwest of Kabul, before they were pushed out by US air strikes and Afghan forces. Noori added that in a separate part of Ghazni province on Friday, a mortar round hit a school, killing four students and wounding 15 students and teachers. “The Taliban and security forces were fighting nearby when the incident happened. We have sent a delegation to investigate the incident,” Noori said.
Friday´s attacks highlight the ongoing fragility of Afghanistan´s security and the risks faced by local forces stationed at vulnerable checkpoints.
President Ashraf Ghani in January said 45000 security forces have been killed since he took office in September 2014.
On their Twitter account, the Taliban claimed to have killed 12 “soldiers”, though the group frequently exaggerates numbers. Meanwhile in Zabul in southern Afghanistan late Friday, Gul Islam Seyal, spokesman for the local governor, told AFP that four police were killed and two wounded after a “Taliban infiltrator” opened fire at a checkpoint.
The attacks come as the United States seeks to broker a peace accord with the Taliban and the Kabul government, more than 17 years since the US-led invasion that ousted the Islamist fighters.
Munir Ahmad Farhad, spokesman for the provincial governor of Balkh, said Sunday that a security guard in the convoy was killed, and two others wounded, in the attack.
Farhad says Taliban militants attacked the convoy at two points, in the Char Bolak and then Faiz Abad district, Saturday afternoon.
A statement by Afghanistan’s army says four Taliban were killed, and seven others wounded, during the two assaults.
Zabihullah Mujahid, a Taliban spokesman, claimed responsibility for the attack against Dostum.