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Afghan ‘Insider Attack’ Claims Lives of 11 Policemen | ASHARQ AL-AWSAT English Archive 2005 -2017
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A military vehicle patrols in the Babaji area of Lashkar Gah Helmand province, Afghanistan May 8, 2016. REUTERS/Abdul Malik

Kabul- Eleven Afghan police taskforce members were shot dead at a checkpoint in the southern province of Helmand, officials said Tuesday, in the latest so-called “insider attack”. An Afghan policeman linked to the Taliban was the one to open fire.

A local news agency reported that the perpetrator took over arms and ammunition present at the checkpoint and escaped the scene in a police vehicle to an unidentified destination.

Local police authorities said that Taliban could have recruited the culprit prior to the attack.

The incident occurred late Monday while the policemen were sleeping in their barracks in the provincial capital Lashkar Gah, as the Taliban escalate a deadly winter campaign of violence.

“A policeman affiliated to the Taliban shot 11 of his colleagues, killing all of them,” a provincial official who demanded anonymity told AFP.

“He then fled the area, taking all the ammunition and firearms with him,” he said, adding that police had launched a search for the Taliban infiltrator.

The Boost government hospital in Lashkar Gah had received the bodies of the 11 policemen, a health official told AFP.

Taliban insurgents, who control vast swathes of the opium-ravaged province, claimed responsibility for the killings.

So-called insider attacks — when Afghan soldiers and police turn their guns on their colleagues or on international troops — have been a major problem during the more than 15-year-long war.

Such attacks have sapped morale and caused deep mistrust within security ranks.

In a similar incident last September, two Afghan soldiers with suspected Taliban links killed at least 12 of their comrades as they slept in the volatile northern province of Kunduz.

Afghan security forces are battling a resurgent Taliban amid record casualties and mass desertions.

For years Helmand was the centerpiece of the Western military intervention in Afghanistan, only for it to slip deeper into a quagmire of instability.

The Taliban effectively control or contest 10 of the 14 districts in Helmand, the deadliest province for British and US troops over the past decade and blighted by a huge opium harvest that helps fund the insurgency.

Lashkar Gah — one of the last government-held enclaves in Helmand — also risks falling to the Taliban’s repeated ferocious assaults.