KABUL, Afghanistan – A Taliban ambush of a police convoy in western Afghanistan killed 20 policemen while 10 troops died in an insurgent attack on an army checkpoint in the north, Afghan officials said Monday as minority Shiites took to the streets in Kabul for the second day to protest the arrest of local militia commander.
During the demonstrations in the Afghan capital, the protesters opened fire at the police, wounding four policemen. Deputy interior minister Gen. Akhtar Mohammad Ibrahimi said 44 policemen were also injured when protesters hurled stones and other hard objects at them.
The Taliban ambush took place in western Farah province on Sunday afternoon. Along with 20 policemen killed, four were wounded, including the deputy provincial police chief, said Dadullah Qaneh, a member of the provincial council.
The convoy was on its way to the district of Lash wa Juwayn to introduce newly appointed district police chief when it came under attack, said another council member, Abdul Samad Salehi. The newly appointed chief was also killed, said Qaneh.
In northern Faryab province, the Taliban attacked an army check point in Qaisar district, killing 10 troops, said Mohammad Tahir Rahmani, head of the provincial council. Three soldiers were wounded while the fate of five others was unknown.
The Taliban, who in recent years have taken over nearly half of Afghanistan, claimed responsibility for the Farah attack, the latest in a series of brutal, near-daily Taliban assaults on Afghan military and security forces throughout the country. The insurgents made no statement on the Faryab assault.
The Taliban view the U.S.-backed government in Kabul as a dysfunctional Western puppet and have refused repeated offers to negotiate with it.
The protesters in western Kabul were rallying to denounce the arrest of Abdul Ghani Alipoor, a Shiite militia leader in western Ghor province. The Afghan intelligence service accuses Alipoor of leading an illegal armed group that is behind extortion and other mafia-like behavior in the region.
On Sunday, hundreds clashed with police during a similar Shiite protest in Kabul. In that demonstration, three policemen were shot and wounded and 20 were injured by stones thrown by protesters who also torched two police checkpoints.
Beside Kabul, there were also protests on Monday in northern Balkh and central Bamyan provinces but no reports of violence there.
"I can hear sporadic sound of shooting form the area," said lawmaker Nasrullah Sadeqizada of Monday's protest in Kabul. The member of parliament lives near the area and spoke to The Associated Press over the phone.
Mahobullah, a resident form the area who uses only one name, said hundreds of protesters were carrying posters of Alipoor, shouting: "Alipoor is innocent" and demanding that he be set free.
During a previous attempt to arrest Alipoor, in June, security forces in Ghor clashed with his followers, leading to the deaths of seven civilians and four policemen.