Taliban attack kills at least 11 policemen after election

Attacks have continued unabated even as Afghanistan held a presidential vote on Saturday

Taliban members including the group’s top negotiator, Abdul Ghani Baradar, third from left, arrive for talks in Moscow in May. AP 
Taliban members including the group’s top negotiator, Abdul Ghani Baradar, third from left, arrive for talks in Moscow in May. AP 

The Taliban launched a multi-pronged attack on a district headquarters in a remote area of northern Afghanistan early on Tuesday, killing at least 11 policemen and triggering an hourslong gunbattle, officials said.

Taliban attacks have continued unabated even as Afghanistan held presidential elections on Saturday, and weeks after U.S.-led peace talks collapsed.

The insurgents now control or hold sway over roughly half the country.

The attack on the Shortepa district headquarters in northern Balkh province started early in the morning, according to Munir Ahmad Farhad, spokesman for the provincial governor. Taliban spokesman Zabihullah Mujahid said the insurgents had overran the compound.

Mr Farhad denied the claim, saying Afghan security forces were still in control of the district headquarters. He said that Afghan reinforcements drove the Taliban from the area. "Security situation is under the control right now," he added.

There has been some destruction to the district police chief headquarters, said Mr Farhad.

The district is very remote, said Mohammad Afzel Hadid, head of the Balkh provincial council. He also confirmed that the Taliban were defeated after reinforcements arrived.

The Taliban had casualties during the battle, said Hadid, but he couldn't provide any figure.

The Afghan government was sidelined in the US-Taliban talks, aimed at ending America's longest war. The Taliban have refused to negotiate with Kabul officials as they consider the Afghan government a US puppet.

In a separate Taliban attack in eastern Ghazni province, at least three civilians were shot and killed by Taliban, said Ahmad Khan Serat, spokesman for the provincial police chief.

He added that six other civilians were wounded when the Taliban targeted the civilian vehicle traveling from Jaghatu district toward Ghazni city.

The Taliban did not immediately comment on the attack in Ghazni.

Last week, there were at least 68 attacks by the Taliban across the country during election day, most of them rockets fired from distant outposts. At least five people were killed, including one policeman, and scores more were wounded.

Despite upgraded security, authorities said 431 polling stations stayed closed because it was impossible to guarantee their security since they were either in areas under Taliban control or in places where insurgents could threaten nearby villages.

Results of the vote are not due for weeks.

Voter participation in the election will be much less than a third, the country's Independent Election Commission said Tuesday, marking a record-low turnout.

With data collated from nearly all polling centres, around 2.59 million of Afghanistan's 9.6 million voters turned out to cast a ballot, according to IEC commissioner Maulana Abdullah.

"This is not a final figure, it is going to change as we are still receiving more data," Mr Abdullah said.

The turnout - about 27 per cent - represents a slight increase on initial figures, but still a historical low.

It was unclear how many of the approximately 4,500 polling stations that received voters still had to transmit data, but the number appeared small.

The turnout is the lowest yet in Afghanistan's presidential elections, as voters stayed away due to the threat of attacks, a muted election campaign and concerns over fraud.

Published: October 1, 2019 06:50 PM

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