Afghan Radio Station Attacked for Being Un-Islamic; 2 Poppy Police Killed

Arsonists set fire Friday to a radio station near Kabul accused of being un-Islamic, and two poppy eradication policemen were killed in Afghanistan's southwest, officials said.

Four gunmen broke into the offices of Radio Zafar before dawn, tied up two security guards and then set the station's equipment ablaze, said Paghman district police chief Abdul Razaq.

The station's director, Najibullah Nassir, said militants have accused Radio Zafar of being morally corrupt and un-Islamic. Its programming includes shows on Islam, sports, news and music.

The station has 16 employees, including two female journalists.

The Afghan media have flourished since the fall of the Taliban in 2001, but journalists often face threats from militants and warlords for airing critical stories, playing music or employing women.

Also Friday, a three-hour clash broke out in southwestern Nimroz province after militants attacked poppy eradication forces in the Khash Rod district, provincial police chief Gen. Mohammad Ayub Badakhshi said.

Two policemen were killed and three wounded, he said. Six suspects were arrested.

Poppy eradication teams work in remote and dangerous areas of Afghanistan, and are often attacked by insurgents or farmers angry that their profitable crops are being destroyed.

According to the Afghan Interior Ministry, around 100 poppy eradication police officers were killed in the line of duty in the past year.

The United Nations says Afghanistan supplies more than 90 percent of the world's illicit opium, which is made from poppies and serves as the main ingredient in heroin. Tens of millions of dollars from the drug trade are believed to flow to Taliban fighters, who tax farmers and demand payment for safe passage through dangerous territory.

Also Friday in Kandahar province, two gunmen assassinated a tribal leader who led efforts for peace and reconciliation in the area, said Panjwayi district chief Haji Shah Baran Khan.

And in volatile Helmand province, U.S.-led coalition forces killed several Taliban militants after coming under attack, the coalition said in a statement Friday.

The troops were searching for a Taliban insurgent involved in weapons trafficking in Helmand's Kajaki district when militants opened fire on them Wednesday.

The troops responded, killing several insurgents and wounding a woman who was not involved in the hostilities.

Helmand, the biggest opium poppy-producing region in the world, has been the front line of the bloodiest fighting between international security forces and Afghan insurgents in the recent years.

More than 8,000 people were killed in the insurgency in 2007, the deadliest year since the 2001 U.S.-led invasion.