Taliban Fighters Seize 30 Policemen, Official

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Mirwais Afghan
Reuters
Sunday, June 19, 2005

KANDAHAR, Afghanistan, June 18 -- Taliban guerrillas said Saturday that they had seized 30 policemen and a local official at a district headquarters building and planned to put them on trial for supporting the U.S.-backed government.

A senior police officer in Kandahar province confirmed that the main government building in Mian Nishin, capital of the district of the same name, was under Taliban control after attacks on Thursday and Friday nights.

Mullah Rahim, a Taliban commander who led the attacks, telephoned the Reuters news agency and handed the phone to the district police chief, Nanai Khan, the officer being held.

"They are going to put me on trial," Khan said nervously. Khan had spoken to Reuters in the past.

Asked if any of the group had been killed, Khan initially replied: "Yes." But after a few seconds of silence, he said: "No, no."

Rahim said none of the prisoners had been killed and that their fates would be decided by the group's religious leaders.

"We haven't killed anyone yet, and we won't kill anyone until the mullahs issue a fatwa ," or edict, he said.

Rahim said the men were accused of working for the government. "We have told people many times not to work with the government," he said.

The senior police officer in Kandahar, who spoke on condition of anonymity, said 13 people were captured by the guerrillas in the district Thursday and 18 more on Friday.

The district was the scene of joint operations by Afghan and U.S.-led forces this week. Officials said nine guerrillas were killed.

The capture of the men is a new crisis for authorities in Kandahar. The province has been hit hard by a recent surge of violence in Afghanistan, which has raised fears about parliamentary elections scheduled for Sept. 18.

Taliban fighters have threatened more violence, and the government has said they are likely to step up attacks ahead of the elections.

More than 150 insurgents have been killed this year, according to U.S. and government figures.

Dozens of government troops and 29 U.S. soldiers from the 20,000-member U.S-led foreign force hunting the militants have also been killed since March.


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