REPORTING FROM KABUL -- In the latest setback for an American-trained rural Afghani police force, one of its members on Friday shot and killed at least nine other officers as they slept before dawn, then stole a truck and fled, Afghan officials said.
A spokesman for the government in Paktika province, in the east of Afghanistan, said the assailant was believed to have been acting at the behest of the Taliban or another insurgent group. The spokesman, Mukhles Afghan, said the killings took place in Yahiyakhail district, not far from the Pakistan border.
Police were investigating whether the victims were drugged to prevent them from awakening during the attack.
The village militias, known as the Afghan Local Police, are meant to help residents of rural communities fend off the Taliban and other insurgents, focusing on areas where the regular police and army are spread too thin. But critics say the force is essentially an unregulated militia, vulnerable to infiltration by insurgents and criminals. Earlier this month, one of its members shot and killed an American soldier approaching one of its checkpoints.
Several insurgent groups are active in the country’s east, including the Pakistan-based Haqqani network, considered one of the most dangerous Taliban offshoots. Western military commanders have said they expect eastern Afghanistan to be a major battlefield during the spring “fighting season,” and are fortifying bases in the area while drawing down in the country’s south.
The NATO force, meanwhile, reported the death of a service member in southern Afghanistan on Friday. No details were provided, other than that the fatality was from a roadside bomb. Most of the service members in the south are Americans, but British and Australian troops also serve in the region.
-- Hashmat Baktash