KABUL, Afghanistan — Taliban insurgents poisoned, then shot and killed 17 people as they slept at a police post in eastern Afghanistan, one of two attacks in as many days targeting Afghan security forces, an official said Wednesday.
The killings occurred overnight in a remote district of Ghazni province where villagers last year took up arms against the Taliban. Members of the Afghan Local Police, a U.S.-backed rural guard force made up of village recruits, were poisoned during dinner by a fellow police officer who officials said had ties to the Taliban, and then were fatally shot by insurgents who overran the outpost, officials said.
Ten of the dead were local police officers while the seven other victims were civilians, said provincial Gov. Musa Khan Akbarzada. “It was a harrowing incident,” he said. Reports differed in describing the civilians, with some saying the seven were friends and relatives spending the night at the outpost to help provide security and others calling them recruits.
The Taliban claimed responsibility for the killings but denied the reports of poisoning. The incident was at least the fourth such poisoning of government security forces attributed to insurgents since October, according to the Afghanistan NGO Safety Office, which tracks security developments across the country.
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The killings took place in the district of Andar, where villagers made headlines — and won fans among U.S. military commanders — last summer for an apparently spontaneous uprising against Taliban rule. Many of the civilians who took up arms have been folded into the Afghan Local Police, which U.S. officials plan to expand nationwide from 20,000 troops to 45,000 troops in the coming years.
The Pentagon intends the local police to become the first line of defense against the Taliban in areas out of the reach of the regular Afghan army and police, but the force has been accused of human-rights abuses allegedly committed by the lightly trained recruits and their commanders. The Afghan Interior Ministry, which supervises the local police, says it has taken steps to improve accountability and punished those who have committed abuses.
Some former members of the insurgency also have been recruited into the local police. Officials in Ghazni said the Taliban members were trying to infiltrate the police force to stage revenge attacks.
Earlier Wednesday, a suicide bomber attacked a bus carrying Afghan army soldiers in a western district of Kabul, wounding six of them and four civilians in the second security incident in the capital this week.
The bomber struck while soldiers were boarding an Afghan Defense Ministry bus. The Taliban claimed responsibility for the attack in text messages.
Material from The Associated Press is included in this report.