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.”

French officers detained after fury over beating video

Updated 47 min 33 sec ago

French officers detained after fury over beating video

  • Images published by the Loopsider website show how music producer Michel Zecler was repeatedly beaten by police
  • Celebrities including football World Cup winners Kylian Mbappe and Antoine Griezmann condemned the beating

PARIS: French authorities on Friday detained four officers suspected of beating and racially abusing a black music producer in Paris in a case that has shocked President Emmanuel Macron and drawn outrage from celebrities and sports stars.
Images published by the Loopsider website show how music producer Michel Zecler was repeatedly beaten by police for several minutes and subjected to racial abuse as he tried to enter his music studio Saturday evening.
Celebrities including football World Cup winners Kylian Mbappe and Antoine Griezmann condemned the beating, while French star singer Aya Nakamura said she wished the producer strength, adding “thank you to those who filmed.”
A presidential official said Friday that Macron, too, was “very shocked” by the images.
The incident raised questions over the future of Paris police chief Didier Lallement, already in the spotlight after the controversial forced removal of a migrant camp in Paris earlier in the week.
It also put the government on the backfoot as it tries to push through new security legislation that would restrict the right of the media to publish the faces of police agents.
Interior Minister Gerald Darmanin, who is in charge of the police forces, told French television that the officers tarnished the reputation of France’s security forces.
The four officers, all men, were detained for questioning on Friday, a source close to the case told AFP.
The officers, who had already been suspended from duty, were being held at the National Police Inspectorate General (IGPN), and prosecutors opened an investigation into violence by a person in authority and false testimony, the source said.
Three of the four were being questioned on suspicion of “violence with a racist motive” committed intentionally in a group, prosecutors said. The fourth is being questioned on suspicion of using violence but is not accused of racism.
Zecler was initially himself detained for causing violence, but prosecutors threw out that probe and began investigating the officers instead.
Macron on Thursday held talks with Darmanin to call for tough punishments for those involved in the beating, a government source added.
“Nausea,” said the front page headline in the leftist Liberation daily over a close-up picture of Zecler’s swollen and bloodied face.
“The new video of a rare ferocity... adds to a problem fed over the last months by a succession of blunders and a tendency to revert to authoritarian tendencies,” it said.
The death in US police custody of George Floyd in May and the Black Lives Matter movement have reverberated in France where allegations of brutality against police officers are commonplace, particularly in poor and ethnically diverse urban areas.
“French police has a structural problem with violence, violence that is committed against visible minorities,” Fabien Jobard, a sociologist, told AFP.
“Unbearable video, unacceptable violence,” Mbappe wrote on Twitter next to a picture of the injured producer. “Say no to racism.”
The outcry comes after the lower house of parliament on Tuesday evening approved a security bill which would restrict the publication of photos or videos of police officers’ faces.
Media unions say it could give police a green light to prevent journalists from potentially documenting abuses, as well as stopping social media users from posting incriminating footage.
A protest against the draft law, which has yet to pass a Senate vote, has been called for Saturday in Paris.
In a sign that the government could be preparing to backtrack, Prime Minister Jean Castex announced late Thursday that he would appoint a commission to redraft Article 24 of the law that would restrict the publication of images of the police.
But this in turn sparked accusations that the prime minister was trying to bypass the legislature.
“It is not for the government to substitute the work of an external committee in the place of parliamentary prerogatives,” the speaker of the lower house Richard Ferrand told Castex, his office said.
Macron swept to power in 2017 as a centrist who rallied support from across the political spectrum. But critics and even some supporters accuse him of tilting to the right as he seeks re-election in 2022.
“Already accused of attacking public freedoms through the security bill... the executive faces an accumulation of cases of violence and police abuse, the images of which have disturbed even the ruling party,” said Le Monde daily.