6 killed, dozens injured after gunmen attack special police unit in Afghan town

Taliban militants have been relentless in targeting Afghan government installations in eastern Khost province, such as this suicide car bomb attack on July 12, 2015. (AFP file photo)
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Updated 28 October 2020

6 killed, dozens injured after gunmen attack special police unit in Afghan town

  • Khost assault follows an uptick in violence across the country

KABUL: Six people were killed and more than 30 injured after unidentified gunmen attacked a compound housing a special police force unit in Afghanistan’s southeastern Khost province on Tuesday, officials told Arab News.

“Two police officers lost their lives in the car bomb, and there are some other fatalities too, apart from the death of four attackers,” Talib Mangal, a spokesman for Khost’s governor told Arab News.

He added that the toll is “highly likely” to go up.

The attack in Khost’s provincial capital, Khost city, which lies 233 km from Kabul, began at 6 a.m. with a massive car bombing. 

The attack is the latest in a series of strikes across the country since the crucial intra-Afghan peace talks began in Qatar more than a month ago.

It triggered hours of fighting between the assailants and the police, who were prevented from entering the complex.

“The gunmen failed to enter the police compound,” Tariq Aryan, Interior Ministry spokesman in Kabul, told Arab News.

No group has claimed responsibility for the attack.

Officials, however, suspect the Taliban organized the strike.

The Taliban have remained silent over several strikes across the country in recent weeks, but claimed responsibility for a major onslaught in the southern Helmand province which began on Oct. 11.

Last week, the group’s Qatar-based spokesman, Dr. Naeem Wardak, confirmed to a local news channel that the insurgents had launched an offensive in Helmand where civilians continue to bear the brunt of the violence.

Scores have died in fighting between the government forces and militants, including in attacks conducted by Daesh as well.

Daesh said that “nearly 25 people were killed and more than 50 injured” in a strike on a Shia populated area in the Khorasan province of Kabul on Saturday, claiming responsibility for the incident.

On Tuesday, the UN expressed concern over an escalation in violence, loss of civilian life and the continued displacement of people from the worst-affected areas
of Helmand.

“The peace talks need some time to help deliver peace. But all parties can immediately prioritize discussions and take urgent and frankly overdue, additional steps to stem the terrible harm to civilians,” Deborah Lyons, the UN’s special envoy for Afghanistan, said.

Earlier on Monday, the world body said that the security situation in Helmand “remains volatile,” describing the Taliban attacks on at least 15 health facilities in the past two weeks as “worrying.”

The Taliban have also taken over several government posts near Lashkar Gah — Helmand’s provincial capital — as part of their offensive, Dr. Wardak said last week.

On Monday, Afghanistan’s government said it had dispatched additional troops to “regain the lost land” from the insurgent group in the area.

“Last night, a large number of joint special forces arrived in Helmand ... they are supposed to defend from the lives and properties of people against Taliban’s attacks,” the Defense Ministry said.

It follows the government’s move on Sunday to form a special combat force, comprising 1,000 locals from Helmand, to fight the Taliban because “they know the terrain better.”

More than 35,000 people have been displaced since fighting in Helmand erupted on Oct. 11. The region is part of the Taliban’s bastion and one of the most volatile parts of Afghanistan.

Analysts, however, believe that with the uptick in violence and lack of progress in the Doha talks, the Taliban were “building pressure” on the government on the battlefield to weaken their stance ahead of the expected departure of US troops from the country, with plans to “eventually re-capture power by force.”

Others argue that Kabul is using “various unsuccessful methods to prevent more areas from being captured by the Taliban.”

Retired general Attiqullah Amarkhail told Arab News: “The formation of the locally raised force in Helmand can be a good example of the desperate efforts by the government. If regular forces cannot protect an area, how can you expect local militias to do so?

“This creates corruption and more instability rather than aiding security.”

CIA officer killed in Somalia: US media

Updated 27 November 2020

CIA officer killed in Somalia: US media

  • The US has some 700 troops training Somali forces and carrying out raids against Al-Shabab militants
  • Al-Shabab, an Al-Qaeda affiliate, is estimated to have between 5,000 and 9,000 fighters

WASHINGTON: A CIA officer was killed in combat in Somalia in recent days, US media said Thursday without releasing details of how the agent died.
The veteran officer was a member of the CIA’s Special Activities Center, a paramilitary branch that carries out some of the US intelligence agency’s most dangerous tasks, The New York Times said.
The officer died of injuries sustained during an operation last week, according to CNN.
The CIA has not commented publicly on the death.
Washington has some 700 troops deployed in Somalia carrying out training of Somali forces and conducting counter-terrorism raids against the Al-Shabab militant group, which Washington designated a terrorist movement in 2008.
Earlier this month, Washington put on its terror blacklist the leader of an elite unit of the Al-Qaeda-affiliated group blamed for a January attack in Kenya that killed three Americans.
Al-Shabab is estimated to have between 5,000 and 9,000 fighters who have vowed to overthrow the Somali government, which is supported by some 20,000 troops from the African Union.
The slain US operative was a veteran of special forces operations, having previously been a member of the elite SEAL Team 6, the Times reported.
The outgoing administration of President Donald Trump is considering withdrawing all US forces from Somalia by the time he leaves office in January, the paper added.
At the start of his term, Trump gave the Pentagon a freer hand to expand their operations, with both air strikes and ground raids, in the war-ravaged African country.
But an official report released in February said that “despite continued US air strikes in Somalia and US assistance to African partner forces, Al-Shabab appears to be a growing threat that aspires to strike the US homeland.”