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Bomb Blast Hits Western Afghan City

The Islamic State extremist group claimed responsibility for the attack on a Shi'ite mosque in the western city of Herat on March 25.

Afghan police say two suicide bombers struck a Shi'ite mosque in the western city of Herat, killing at least one person and wounding seven others.

Police spokesman Abdul Ahad Walizada said the suicide bombers tried to enter the Nabi Akram Mosque on March 25, but one was shot dead by security guards and the other blew himself up before reaching the hall where worshippers were praying.

The Islamic State extremist group claimed responsibility for the attack.

The area around the mosque was cordoned off by police and ambulances were seen rushing victims to hospitals in the city.

The Sunni extremists have frequently targeted Afghanistan’s Shi'ite minority, which they view as apostates.

The group claimed responsibility for a suicide attack outside a Shi'ite mosque in Kabul on March 21 that killed 33 people and wounded dozens as people in the capital celebrated Norouz, the Persian new year holiday.

According to the UN Assistance Mission in Afghanistan, 161 people were killed and 257 others were wounded in 2017 in targeted sectarian attacks against Shi'ite places of worship or worshippers.

Based on reporting by Reuters and Tolo News

Suicide Car Bomber Kills 13 At Afghan Wrestling Match

Men carry a wounded man onto a stretcher outside a hospital following a car bomb in Lashkar Gah, the capital of Helmand province on March 23.

A car bomb has exploded at the entrance of a sports stadium in Lashkar Gah, the capital of Afghanistan's southwestern province of Helmand, killing at least 13 people and injuring dozens as they were leaving a wrestling match.

Aminullah Abed, the head of the province's public health department, said at least 40 were injured -- with six in critical condition. He said the bodies of many of those who were killed had been burnt beyond recognition.

Omar Zawak, a spokesman for Helmand's provincial governor, told RFE/RL that the attack was carried out by a suicide bomber who drove an explosives-laden car into a crowd of people as they were passing through the entrance gate of the sports facility on March 23.

Zawak said at least 14 people were killed and 45 were injured.

Provincial police chief Abdul Ghafar Safi said the target of the attack was civilians. He said no high-ranking officials were present or hurt at the stadium.

The attack occurred after Afghan New Year celebrations were winding down.

There was no immediate claim of responsibility for the attack.

With reporting by AFP and AP

German Lawmakers Approve Troop Increase For Afghanistan

German Defense Minister Ursula von der Leyen

The German parliament has approved plans to extend the country's military mission in Afghanistan.

A majority of lawmakers voted to approve a bill raising the maximum number of German troops deployed in Afghanistan as part of NATO’s Resolute Support mission by one-third to 1,300.

The decision comes as the Western-backed government in Kabul is struggling to fend off the Taliban and other militant groups since the withdrawal of most NATO troops in 2014.

Earlier this month, Defense Minister Ursula von der Leyen said that the German troop increase should be matched with accelerated reforms by the Afghan government.

She also warned that the military’s mission in Afghanistan would likely extend for some time, saying, "We need patience and a long breath, without question."

Germany has contributed to NATO missions in Afghanistan for the past 17 years.

The German military has its headquarters in Afghanistan in the northern city of Mazar-e-Sharif and a large base near Kunduz.

Based on reporting by dpa

Asylum Seeker Claiming Afghan Origin Sentenced For Rape, Murder In Germany

The case triggered protests in Germany against Chancellor Angela Merkel’s immigration policies.

An asylum seeker who claims to be from Afghanistan was sentenced by a German court on March 22 to life in prison for the rape and murder of a woman.

Hussein Khavari, who arrived in Germany without identification in 2015, had admitted to attacking 19-year-old Maria Ladenburger in the southwestern city of Freiburg in October 2016.

Prosecutors said Khavari pushed the woman off her bicycle, then bit, choked, and raped her. She was left alive on the bank of a river, where she subsequently drowned.

Khavari was arrested seven weeks later after a manhunt.

Khavari had previously received a 10-year sentence for attempted murder in Greece, only to be freed in 2015 because of overcrowded prisons.

German authorities have not been able to confirm Khavari’s age and nation of origin. He originally claimed to be a teenager, but after examining dental records and X-rays, experts said they believe him to be 22 to 29 years old.

The case triggered protests in Germany against Chancellor Angela Merkel’s immigration policies.

Under German law, a life sentence means 15 years in prison with no chance of parole and the possibility of "security detention" after release.

Based on reporting by AFP and the BBC

Women From Afghanistan, Kosovo, Kazakhstan Among 2018 Courage Award Honorees

Kazakh lawyer Aiman Omarova is among those who who has been honored with an International Women of Courage Award. (file photo)

Ten women from countries including Afghanistan, Kazakhstan, and Kosovo are being honored with the U.S. State Department's International Women of Courage Award (IWOC) for 2018.

Deputy Secretary of State John Sullivan will host the annual IWOC ceremony on March 23. First Lady Melania Trump is to deliver remarks at the ceremony.

The award is presented annually to women from around the world who have shown leadership, courage, resourcefulness, and willingness to sacrifice for others, especially in promoting women's rights.

The 2018 awardees include:

Roya Sadat of Afghanistan is a well-known rights defender who uses television and cinema to tell stories of Afghan women and girls despite enormous personal risks linked to cultural, bureaucratic, and financial obstacles.

Aiman Omarova of Kazakhstan is a prominent lawyer who specializes in sexual abuse crimes committed against women and children, and works with political and rights detainees.

Feride Rushiti of Kosovo is the founder and executive director of the Kosovo Center for the Rehabilitation of Torture Victims, whose activism led to a landmark government ruling on awarding pensions to victims of Kosovo wartime sexual violence.

The other seven are Aura Elena Farfan of Guatemala, Julissa Villlanueva of Honduras, Aliyah Khalaf Saleh of Iraq, Maria Elena Berini of Italy, L'Malouma Said of Mauritania, Godelive Mukasarasi of Rwanda, and Sirikan Charoensiri of Thailand.

CORRECTION: This article has been amended to reflect the fact that the 10 women in question are awardees, not finalists.

Top U.S. Military Officer Visits Afghanistan To Review Campaign

U.S. General Joseph Dunford said he wanted to understand the goals for the coming months so the U.S.-led coalition can develop ways to measure progress in the fight.

U.S. General Joseph Dunford, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, has visited Afghanistan to evaluate the military campaign there.

The visit by Dunford, the top U.S. military officer, follows a two-day stop in the country by Defense Secretary Jim Mattis last week amid a renewed effort to get the Taliban militants to open talks with the Afghan government.

Bolstering that effort is an increased U.S. military campaign aimed at ensuring Afghan troops make progress against the Taliban and other insurgents in the fighting season this spring.

Dunford said on March 19 he wanted to understand the goals for the coming months so the U.S.-led coalition can develop ways to measure progress in the fight.

Dunford is traveling with a large team, including senior officials who specialize in intelligence, strategy, and logistics.

With reporting by AP and Tolo News

Three Killed In Blast Outside Hekmatyar Rally In Afghanistan

Afghan policemen inspect the scene after a deadly blast in Jalalabad on March 19.

Three people were killed when a motorcycle bomb exploded in eastern Afghanistan on March 19 outside a rally being held by a veteran warlord who made peace with the government last year, officials said.

At least eight more people were wounded in the explosion.

The former commander, Gulbuddin Hekmatyar, was not hurt in the blast that came 10 minutes after his rally ended, in the city of Jalalabad, as people were leaving the site, Attahullah Khogyani, spokesman for the provincial governor told the media.

Hekmatyar, who served as prime minister for a period during Afghanistan's civil war in the 1990s, was in recent years allied with the Taliban.

He returned to Kabul last year under a peace deal with the government, as head of his Hizb-i-Islami party.

No group has claimed responsibility for the blast.

Nangarhar province, of which Jalalabad is capital, has in recent years become a hotbed of militants affiliated to both Islamic State and the Taliban.

The attack in Jalalabad came after at least eight people were killed in separate incidents in the capital, Kabul, and southeastern Ghazni province on March 18.

Based on reporting by Reuters and dpa

Suicide Car-Bomb Attack Kills At Least Three In Kabul

Afghan security forces surrounded the site of a suicide bombing attack in Kabul on March 17.

Afghan officials say at least three people have been killed and two others wounded in a suicide car-bomb attack that apparently targeted a foreign security company in the capital, Kabul.

The Taliban claimed responsibility for the blast that hit the Despechari area in eastern Kabul in the morning on March 17.

Deputy Interior Ministry spokesman Nasrat Rahimi said the attacker "detonated himself before reaching the target."

The ministry said all those killed and wounded in the attack were civilians, with no casualties among the contractors.

Eyewitnesses confirmed that the victims were passersby and local workers.

“All those killed were barbers or shoeshine men. I was horrified when I saw their bodies," eyewitness Mohammad Osman told Reuters. The explosion damaged nearby buildings, he added.

The latest attack comes amid growing pressure on the Taliban to take up the Afghan government's offer of peace talks to end the 16-year conflict.

Kabul has recently seen a spate of militant attacks claimed by the Taliban and Islamic State.

Earlier this week, top U.S. commander in Afghanistan John Nicholson said security in Kabul would be "the main effort" for international powers helping Afghan defense and security forces.

With reporting by Reuters, AFP, dpa, AP

At Least 15 Afghan Security Personnel Killed In Western Province

FILE: Afghan National Army (ANA) soldiers inspect a vehicle which was used in an attack in Farah.

At least 15 Afghan security personnel have been killed in fighting with Taliban militants in the western province of Farah, a provincial official said.

Farid Bakhtawar, head of the provincial council, said seven army commandos and eight police were killed in the Bala Buluk district after a predawn attack by the Taliban.

Bakhtawar said three other security personnel are missing and more than 30 militants were killed in the battle that ended after air strikes were called in.

Defense Ministry spokesman Dawlat Waziri said only four members of the Afghan special forces had been killed and a number wounded.

Taliban spokesman Zabihullah Mujhaid claimed responsibility for the attack.

Farah, located along the border with Iran, has been the scene of intense Taliban attacks in recent weeks.

The Kabul government has deployed hundreds of additional troops to the province to thwart the Taliban's offensive.

Based on reporting by Reuters and AP

Ten Suspected Insurgents Killed In Afghanistan's Helmand

FILE: Afghan National Army (ANA) soldiers during a training in Helmand province.

At least 10 suspected insurgents were killed and 13 wounded in an operation by Afghan security forces in the southern province of Helmand, authorities say.

Afghanistan's National Directorate of Security (NDS) said in a statement on March 10 that the operation was conducted in the Khoshkaba area of Helmand's capital, Lashkar Gah.

Eight other suspects were arrested, the NDS said.

During the operation, security forces seized weapons and explosive materials, including suicide vests and a car bomb, NDS said in the statement.

Suspected insurgent hideouts were also destroyed in the operation.

Afghan security forces also seized caches of weapons in separate operations in southeastern Paktika Province.

No further details were provided about the operations.

Meanwhile, the death toll in a March 9 Kabul suicide bombing claimed by Islamic State has risen to 10, the Afghan Health Ministry said on March 10.

Twenty-two people were injured in the attack in the predominantly Shi'ite neighborhood of Dasht-e Barchi.

One police officer was among the dead.

With reporting by dpa and tolonews.com

Taliban Attacks Remote Afghan Army Outpost, Killing 10

FILE: Afghan security forces during the military operation in Takhar province.

The Taliban launched a deadly assault on an army outpost in a remote region of Afghanistan's northern Takhar Province, killing 10 local police officers and wounding nine, a local official said on March 9.

Provincial police spokesman Khali Aseir said that a large number of Taliban fighters assaulted the outpost overnight.

Aseir said the 10 members of the local police were ambushed and killed while on their way to the outpost to assist the Afghan soldiers in the remote district of Khwaja Ghar.

There were no casualties among the soldiers.

Taliban spokesman Zabihullah Mujahid claimed responsibility for the assault and the killing of the police officers. He claimed the Taliban had inflicted a far higher number of casualties, but the insurgents often exaggerate their claims.

The report couldn't be independently confirmed because of the area's remoteness.

With reporting by AP

Afghan Man Admits Vienna Stabbings, Cites 'Bad Mood'

FILE: A police officer walks in front of the Austrian chancellery in Vienna.

Austrian authorities say a 23-year-old Afghan man has admitted stabbing and severely injuring four people in Vienna because he was "upset about his life’s situation."

Police said on March 8 that the suspect, whose name was not made public, acknowledged the stabbings of a 20-year-old Afghan male acquaintance and three members of a separate family.

The victims' names were also not released.

The suspect was detained shortly after the stabbing of the 20-year-old late on March 7 in the Austrian capital, police said.

Earlier in the evening at about 7:45 p.m. local time, he allegedly attacked three members of a family -- the 67-year-old father, the 56-year-old mother, and their 17-year-old daughter -- on the large shopping street of Praterstrasse in the center of Vienna.

Police said the father was in critical condition, while his wife and daughter remained hospitalized in stable condition. The injured Afghan man was also reported to be stable.

Authorities said the motive for the attack on the family was unclear. But they said the suspect told police he knew the Afghan man, saying he was targeted because "he holds him responsible for his previous drug addiction."

The suspect also said he was in a "bad, aggressive mood and upset about his life's situation" when he committed the attacks, police reported.

Based on reporting by AP and AFP

Hundreds Of Women March In Kabul For International Women's Day

Afghan Chief Executive, Abdullah Abdullah (C) prays during an event marking International Women's Day, in Kabul on March 8

Hundreds of women marched in the Afghan capital, Kabul, on March 8 to mark International Women's Day and to remind authorities that much remains to be done to give Afghan women a voice, ensure their education, and protect them from increasing violence.

The head of the Afghan Independent Human Rights Commission, Sima Samar, addressed women in Afghanistan's security forces.

"Your safety represents the safety of all Afghan women," she said, reminding women in uniform to report any abuse by superiors to the rights commission.

Samar said no one has the right to comment on their physical appearance or to speak to them disrespectfully.

The overall situation for Afghan women has gradually improved in the last decade, especially in the major urban areas, but those living in rural parts of the country still face major discrimination and violence.

Human rights groups, including Human Rights Watch and the United States Commission on International Religious Freedom, have voiced concern at women's rights in Afghanistan.

With reporting by AP

German Cabinet Approves Troop Increase For Afghanistan

FILE: German soldiers walk through an Afghan military base during fighting between Taliban militants and Afghan security forces in the northern Afghan city of Kunduz in October 2015.

The German government on March 7 approved plans to extend the country's overseas military missions, including in Afghanistan.

The defense bill, which must still be approved by parliament, would raise the maximum number of German troops deployed in Afghanistan as part of NATO’s Resolute Support mission by one-third to 1,300.

The decision comes as the Western-backed government in Kabul is struggling to fend off the Taliban and other militant groups since the withdrawal of most NATO troops in 2014.

German Defense Minister Ursula von der Leyen told broadcaster ARD that the move should be matched with accelerated reforms by the Afghan government.

She also warned that the military’s mission in Afghanistan would likely extend for some time, saying, "We need patience and a long breath, without question."

Germany has contributed to NATO missions in Afghanistan for the past 17 years.

The German military has its headquarters in Afghanistan in the northern city of Mazar-e-Sharif and a large base near Kunduz.

Von der Leyen described the German military's contribution to NATO's missions in Afghanistan as a "story of progress on the one side, but of course also setbacks," arguing that the educational opportunities for children, the status of women, health care, and infrastructure in the war-torn country had improved over the years.

But she also said that the Afghan Army was still struggling to keep the country safe.

Chancellor Angela Merkel's government also agreed on April 7 to extend the German military's missions in Iraq, Mali, South Sudan, and the NATO-led Sea Guardian operation in the Mediterranean Sea.

The cabinet meeting was the last before the new coalition government takes over.

Based on reporting by AP, Reuters, and DW

Afghan Religious Official Killed By Suicide Bomber

Afghan security forces inspect the site of the suicide attack in Jalalabad on March 7.

A suicide bomber has killed two people in eastern Afghanistan, including the local head of the Ministry of Haj and Religious Affairs.

The extremist group Islamic State (IS) claimed responsibility for the March 7 bombing in Nangarhar Province’s capital, Jalalabad, through its Amaq news agency.

Attahullah Khogyani, a spokesman for Nangarhar Province’s governor, said 10 people were also wounded in the blast.

Khogyani said the attacker was on foot and apparently targeted the slain local religious affairs official, Abdul Zahir Haqqani.

"He was coming off a bridge when the attacker approached him and blew himself up close to his car," he added.

Both the Taliban and rival militants from a branch of the so-called Islamic State are active in Nangarhar Province, which borders Pakistan, and regularly attack local officials and security forces.

On March 6, at least two people were killed and two others were injured when a bomb attached to a fuel truck exploded in the province, officials said.

No group claimed responsibility for that attack.

Based on reporting by Reuters, AP, and tolonews.com

At Least 31 Suspected Militants Killed In Afghanistan, Army Says

At least two people were killed when a bomb attached to a fuel truck exploded in eastern Nangarhar Province.

At least 31 suspected insurgents, including Islamic State militants, were killed over the past 24 hours in ground and air strikes launched by the Afghan Army in different parts of the country, the Defense Ministry said on March 6.

Seventeen suspected militants were wounded and two were arrested, the ministry said in a statement. At least 13 air strikes were carried out across the country to target suspected insurgent hideouts and weapons caches, the statement said.

Operations were conducted in Nangarhar, Laghman, Kunar, Ghazni, Paktika, Kandahar, Zabul, Farah, Badghis, Kunduz, Takhar, Faryab, Nimroz, and Helmand provinces.

Separately, at least two people were killed March 6 when a bomb attached to a fuel truck exploded in eastern Nangarhar Province, a local official said.

Attahullah Khogyani, spokesman for the provincial governor, says the explosion also wounded three people.

He says it took place in the province's Behsud district, along a main highway between the provincial capital of Jalalabad and the Torkham border crossing with Pakistan.

No group immediately claimed responsibility for the bombing, but both the Taliban and IS militants are active in the province and have stepped up their attacks against Afghan security forces.

Based on reporting by tolonews.com and AP

One Afghan Killed, 22 Wounded In Kabul Bombing Targeting Australians

The site of a suicide bomb attack in Kabul on March 2

A suicide bomb attack in an eastern district of Kabul on March 2 that killed a 6-year-old girl and wounded 22 more Afghans was targeting Australian Embassy vehicles, Afghan and Australian officials said.

Interior Ministry spokesman Najib Danish said that the blast was a car bombing targeting "a convoy of foreigners" in the Qabel Bay district of the Afghan capital.

The Australian Foreign Ministry on the Australian Embassy website late on March 2 said the bombing apparently targeted Australians as it was detonated "near Australian Embassy vehicles while they were traveling in Kabul."

The ministry said no Australians were injured. NATO's Resolute Support mission also issued a statement saying no NATO personnel were injured.

"The target was not a NATO convoy," said NATO mission spokesman Tom Gresback.

The area is home to a military training center, the government’s customs offices, and some guesthouses.

No one has yet claimed responsibility for the bombing.

The attack came two days after President Ashraf Ghani offered to start peace talks with the Taliban and just over a month after an explosives-packed ambulance was detonated in the city center, killing around 100 people.

The Taliban claimed the ambulance attack, as well as an attack a week earlier in which militants stormed a luxury hotel in Kabul, killing 22 people, including 14 foreigners.

With reporting by dpa, AFP, AP, and Reuters

At Least Five Police Killed, 30 People Kidnapped In Southern Afghanistan

FILE: Afghan forces in Oruzgan

Afghan officials say at least five police officers have been killed and 30 other people abducted in two separate incidents in the south of the country.

Dost Mohammad Nayab, the spokesman for Oruzgan Province's governor, told RFE/RL that the incidents occurred on a highway linking Kandahar and Oruzgan provinces on February 27.

Kandahar police chief General Abdul Raziq confirmed the attack and abduction.

He said that a group of militants launched an assault on a police checkpoint, killing six officers and wounding five others.

Nayab put the death toll in the assault at five.

Kandahar police spokesman Ahmadzia Durani said that efforts were under way to secure the release of those kidnapped.

No one has claimed responsibility for the attack or abduction, but Raziq blamed Taliban militants.

The incidents come as the Western-backed government in Kabul has been struggling to fend off the Taliban and other militant groups since the withdrawal of most NATO troops in 2014.

At a conference in Kabul, President Ashraf Ghani on February 28 proposed the recognition of the Taliban as a legitimate political group, as part of a process that could lead to peace negotiations and put an end to more than 16 years of fighting.

With reporting by AP and dpa

Suspected IS Militants 'Stone Man To Death' In Eastern Afghanistan

A man has reportedly been stoned to death by Islamic State (IS) militants in Afghanistan's eastern Nangarhar Province.

An RFE/RL correspondent who obtained photos released by the militants reported that the stoning occurred in the Wazir Tangi area of Nangarhar.

The pictures from the scene show a purported IS member dressed in white apparently kissing the forehead of a blindfolded man before he is stoned to death.

In other pictures, people are gathered in a semicircle while the victim is laying on the ground with stones around the body. In yet another photo, the body is laid on a bed with people around him.

In a brief statement, the militant group said the married man, whose identity was not given, was stoned to death for extramarital sexual relations.

The statement does not say when the incident occurred or with whom the victim had had sexual relations.

There was no immediate comment from Afghan authorities, and the photos' authenticity could not be independently verified.

Turkey Takes Control Of Schools Linked To Gulen In Afghanistan

Turkey has accused U.S.-based Turkish cleric Fethullah Gulen of being behind a coup attempt in July 2016.

Turkey has taken control of 12 schools in Afghanistan run by an organization linked to U.S.-based Muslim cleric Fethullah Gulen, whom Ankara blames for a failed coup in 2016.

The Afghan-Turk schools will now be run by Turkey's state educational foundation Maarif, defying opposition by Afghan students and parents.

The move against Afghan Turk CAG Educational NGO (ATCE), the body that runs the schools, appears to be part of Turkey's campaign against followers of Gulen, whom Ankara accuses of being behind a coup attempt in July 2016 aimed at ousting President Recep Tayyip Erdogan.

ATCE, which says it is an independent organization, has operated schools in several cities including the capital, Kabul, Mazar-e Sharif, Kandahar, and Herat since 1995.

Turkish Education Minister Ismet Yilmaz and his Afghan counterpart, Mohammad Ibrahim Shinwari, attended a handover ceremony in Kabul on February 26.

In return for control of the schools, Turkey has promised to double the number of Turkish schools in Afghanistan, bring in new, highly qualified teachers, cut student fees, and offer more scholarships to Afghan students, according to the Afghan Education Ministry.

Based on reporting by Tolo News, dpa, and Reuters

Ex-Afghan Lawmaker, Bodyguard Gunned Down In Kabul

Afghan soldiers keep watch at a check point near the site of a suicide attack in Kabul, Afghanistan on February 24.

The Afghan Interior Ministry says a former lawmaker and his bodyguard were gunned down in the capital, Kabul.

Interior Ministry spokesman Najib Danish said Rafiullah Gul Afghan and his bodyguard were shot dead late February 24 when gunmen opened fire on their vehicle in the northern Kabul neighborhood of Khair Khana.

Danish said the attackers escaped the scene of the crime and an investigation had been launched into the killings.

Afghan had served as deputy speaker for the upper house of parliament and most recently was an adviser to Afghan Chief Executive Officer Abdullah Abdullah.

No group has claimed responsibility for the attack.

Based on reporting by AP and Khaama

German-Russian, 70, 'Stabs Afghan, Syrian, Iraqi Refugees'

German police say a 70-year-old German-Russian dual national has been arrested and accused of "politically motivated" attempted murder after he attacked three asylum seekers with a knife.

The bloody attack, which occurred outside a church in the western city of Heilbronn on February 17, left a 17-year-old Afghan badly wounded. A 25-year-old Iraqi and a 19-year-old Syrian were also wounded, police said on February 22.

The suspect, who was apparently drunk at the time of the attack, was overpowered with the help of passersby until police arrived and detained him.

He was initially charged with assault and released but on February 21 prosecutors raised the charge to "politically motivated" attempted murder and issued a formal arrest warrant.

The man was rearrested after police had further questioned the victims, witnesses, and the suspect, police said in a statement.

The suspect voiced anger at Germany's asylum policy that brought more than a million refugees and migrants to the country in recent years, police said.

Based on reporting by AFP and AP

At Least 10 Dead After Insurgent Attack, Roadside Blast In Afghanistan

FILE: Afghan policemen inspect the scene of a bomb blast in Ghazni in June 2016.

At least 10 people have been killed in two separate incidents in Afghanistan's southern Ghazni and Zabul provinces, officials say.

"Unfortunately, eight local police were killed and another one was injured," said Arif Noori, a spokesman for the provincial governor, after a large number of Taliban militants attacked and overran a police checkpoint in Deh Yak district in Ghazni Province early on February 22.

Security forces also reported inflicting heavy casualties on the insurgents, but could not give precise numbers of dead and wounded.

Taliban spokesman Zabihullah Mujahid claimed responsibility for the attack on Twitter, saying that militants had detained one local police officer and killed nine others.

Separately, two civilians were killed and two were wounded in a roadside bomb blast in Sewray district of Zabul Province, said Gul Islam Sial, a spokesman for the provincial governor.

On February 20, at least 26 Afghan police officers were killed and several others injured in Taliban attacks security checkpoints in Farah and Helmand provinces.

Based on reporting by AP and dpa

HRW Calls For Probe After Reports Afghan Forces Killed 20 Civilians

FILE: Afghan special forces take part in a military exercise in November 2017.

Human Rights Watch (HRW) has demanded a joint investigation by the Afghan government and U.S. military into alleged summary executions by special forces linked with Kabul's intelligence service, a statement by the watchdog said February 21.

Members of the National Directorate of Security (NDS) killed 20 civilians in an operation in the southern Kandahar Province last month, HRW said in its statement.

The watchdog reported that special forces shot and killed civilians who were fleeing U.S. air strikes against insurgents in the Band-e Timor area of the Maiwand district and the Reg area of the Panjwai district.

An eyewitness who spoke to HRW by phone said the security forces shot people as they "were running away" when the airplanes came.

The watchdog also alleged security force members "dragged some men from their homes and then shot them."

Fifty Taliban members were also killed, the report said.

HRW said the killings might be in retaliation for recent attacks by the Taliban throughout the country, including two strikes in Kabul last month that killed scores of people.

HRW said the operation was led by the police chief of Maiwand who reports to Kandahar police chief General Abdul Raziq, who has been accused of human rights violations in the past.

A United Nations annual report on civilian casualties released last week said operations by the NDS special forces caused 61 civilian deaths and 25 injuries in 12 months.

The UN has warned that special forces appear to operate outside the NDS chain of command, "resulting in a lack of clear oversight and accountability."

With reporting by dpa

Bodies Found Of Nine People Abducted Last Year In Afghanistan

Afghan soldiers look on from a vehicle during an ongoing an operation against Islamic State (IS) militants in Kot district of Nangarhar province on February 16.

The bodies of nine civilians abducted by militants early last year have been found in Afghanistan's eastern province of Nangarhar, an Afghan official and tribal elders said on February 19.

Sayed Rahman Mohmand, the governor of Kot district, said the bodies, including three of tribal leaders, were found dumped in a common grave over the weekend.

Mohmand said locals found the bodies in the neighboring Achin district.

The nine were abducted by militants in Kot and nothing was known about their fate till now.

Tribal elders confirmed the discovery of the bodies and said funerals for the deceased will be held on February 19.

Mohmand said the Islamic State group was behind the abduction and the killings, though the militant group has not claimed responsibility for the deaths.

Both the Taliban and IS are active in eastern Afghanistan.

Based on reporting by AP and tolonews.com

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