ZABUL PROVINCE, Afghanistan – Six Afghan policemen were killed in an ambush by suspected Taliban and al Qaeda guerrillas in the southern province of Helmand at the weekend, a provincial official said on Monday. Haji Mohammad Wali, spokesman for the governor of Helmand, told Reuters the policemen were on patrol in Helmand’s Girishk district late on Sunday when their vehicle came under attack from rocket-propelled grenades and automatic rifles.
The attack occurred not far from a district in neighboring Kandahar province where five police officers were killed in a similar attack earlier this month.
Wali blamed the attack on guerrillas from the former Taliban regime ousted in 2001 and their al Qaeda allies.
“We have no doubt that the attack was the work of Taliban and al Qaeda people,” he told Reuters by telephone.
The attack followed word from a Taliban official that the group’s elusive leader, Mullah Mohammad Omar, had approved a new deputy for the south on Saturday to assist a notorious commander suffering from wounds, and ordered him to intensify attacks on U.S. and government forces.
Ten days ago, eight Afghan government soldiers were killed in an attack by suspected Taliban in the southeastern province of Khost.
A series of suspected Taliban attacks elsewhere in the south the weekend before last wounded five American and four Italian members of the 11,500-strong international coalition pursuing Taliban and al Qaeda fighters.
The U.S. military said U.S.-led coalition forces killed up to 24 suspected Taliban on July 19 after guerrillas attacked a coalition convoy near Spin Boldak on the Pakistani border.
More than 100 government soldiers, police and civilians have been killed or wounded in attacks since the start of the year across the south, the main Taliban bastion when it was in power.
On Sunday, the government of southern Zabul province urged U.S. forces in Afghanistan to step up operations against the Taliban there after the guerrillas named a rival provincial governor.
In a further sign of increased Taliban activity, Spin Boldak residents awoke on Sunday to posters threatening death to 25 “informers” accused of collaborating with U.S. and government forces.