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Taliban attacks leave 23 dead in Afghanistan

Twenty-three people have been killed in a spate of violence in southern Afghanistan, including civilians, policemen, insurgents, and a coalition soldier reportedly killed in a “green-on-blue” attack by Afghan policemen.

Three Afghan police officers were killed and seven wounded on Tuesday in an early-morning attack by insurgents on a joint US-Afghan base at Kandahar city, local officials said. Four insurgents – all wearing Afghan police uniforms, and armed with light weapons and hand grenades – attacked the outer gates of the base at 6 a.m., Javid Faisal, a Kandahar government spokesman, said.

He said that all four insurgents were killed after a 15-minute battle with Afghan security forces.

The Taliban in a website statement claimed responsibility for the attack, saying they had killed 40 “invaders” – a word the insurgents use to describe members of the U.S.-led coalition in Afghanistan. The Taliban also claimed to have killed and wounded nearly 70 Afghan security personnel as well as wounding 14 coalition soldiers.

However, Major Martyn Crighton, a spokesman for the International Security Assistance Force, as the coalition is formally known, told McClatchy there were no reports of any ISAF fatalities. ISAF has a policy of not confirming details about wounded personnel.

Also on Tuesday, seven insurgents were killed in an attack on an ISAF forward operating base in the Shah Wali Kot district of Kandahar province, according to Major Crighton, the ISAF spokesman, who said the incident occurred around 3:30 a.m. Crighton said that the insurgents had initially breached the outer perimeter of the base, “but all seven were subsequently killed by the ISAF forces.”

The Taliban also claimed responsibility for this attack, and said in a website statement that its “mujahideen,” or Islamic holy warriors, had barricaded themselves inside the base “and are engaging the enemy.” Spokesman Qari Yousuf Ahmadi claimed the “martyrdom attack” at Shah Wali Kot had killed and wounded “dozens of invaders.”

The Taliban are known to regularly exaggerate claims of coalition casualties, and ISAF spokesman Crighton told McClatchy that there were no reports of ISAF fatalities.

Separately, ISAF confirmed that one of its service members was killed in southern Afghanistan Monday when three men in Afghan police uniforms opened fire on coalition troops. An ISAF statement said the three assailants had immediately fled the area and were being sought, but refused to release further details about the incident.

However, Kandahar government spokesman Faisal told McClatchy that the incident took place in the Senzarai area of Kandahar province’s Zheray district. “We don’t know if (the attackers) were really police officers or whether they were just wearing police uniforms,” he said.

Faisal was unable to confirm the identity of the coalition soldier that was killed, but added that only the U.S. military operate in Zheray district.

The Taliban in a website statement said three Afghan police officers had launched an attack on coalition soldiers at a checkpoint at Senzarai “in which five invaders were killed and 12 others wounded.”

Meanwhile, eight civilians – including women and children – were killed Monday when their vehicle hit a mine in the Musa Qala district of restive Helmand province, local officials said. Afghanistan’s Interior Ministry said that five other civilians were wounded in the blast, and were transported by police to a nearby hospital.

The ministry said in a statement that the mine was placed by “the enemies of peace and stability” – shorthand for the Taliban-led insurgents who are battling Afghan government and coalition forces.

Afghan president Hamid Karzai said that “the enemies of Islam and humanity have once again shown their barbaric face to everyone by committing such a heinous act.”

(Stephenson and Safi are McClatchy special correspondents)