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Across Afghanistan, Scores Are Killed in a Deadly Wave of Violence

BAGHLAN-E-MARKAZI, Afghanistan — In a chaotic day of violence throughout Afghanistan, scores of police officers, soldiers and civilians were killed by insurgents who, in four separate attacks, overran a major military base, killed a police chief, destroyed a police post and bombed a memorial event.

In the capital, Kabul, a commemoration for a man some Afghans regard as a hero turned violent as suicide bombers attacked celebrants, killing seven, and the police arrested more than 100 mourners for shooting in the air.

The deadliest single incident was the destruction by Taliban insurgents of an army base in Baghlan Province on Sunday, with at least 22 and as many as 40 security force members killed, local officials said.

The military installation was the second major base to fall to the insurgents in Baghlan Province in the past month, and the third in northern Afghanistan during the same period.

Abdul Hai Nemati, the governor of Baghlan Province, said the Afghan National Army base at Mangalha village, in the Baghlan-e-Markazi District just north of the provincial capital of Pul-i-Kumri, had been completely surrounded by insurgents.

Casualties for Afghan security forces have steadily risen in recent years, as the international coalition has mostly withdrawn and left most of the fighting to the Afghans. In the first 10 months of 2016, the number of Afghan police and soldiers who have died totaled 6,785, an average of more than 20 a day, according to the Special Inspector General for Afghan Reconstruction, a United States government agency.

Since then, the agency said, the American military has classified casualty information as secret at the request of the Afghan government. Many local analysts say official fatalities have almost certainly increased.

[Read about how Afghan war statistics mislead the American public.]

In Kabul, hundreds of gunmen took to the streets on Sunday, blocking traffic and firing their weapons into the air, defying a ban on such celebrations in honor of Ahmad Shah Massoud, the northern leader who was killed by Al Qaeda in 2001. Health officials said 13 people were hospitalized, struck by falling bullets.

Young people brandishing knives and machetes joined the unruly mourning processions, and the city’s police made more than 100 arrests for public disorder offenses, seizing dozens of weapons and confiscating 30 cars used in the processions, according to Hashmat Stanikzai, a police spokesman.

The raucous and often violent processions have been an annual feature in Kabul for many years now. Mr. Massoud is revered by his fellow Tajiks as the leader of the Northern Alliance fighting the Taliban, but he is regarded by other Afghan groups as a war criminal involved in mass murder of opponents.

At Massoud Square, near the United States Embassy, security officials shot and apparently killed a man they said was a would-be suicide bomber wearing an explosive vest. Later, another suicide bomber, this time on a motorcycle, attacked a Massoud procession, killing seven people and wounding 20 others, according to Mr. Stanikzai.

In northern Baghlan Province, a senior police official said that the insurgents had captured the Mangalha base by Sunday and had killed 40 soldiers and national and local police officers at that installation and at smaller outposts in the area.

The official spoke on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to release the information. Afghan officials have often responded with denial in response to initial reports of serious setbacks.

A spokesman at the Ministry of Defense in Kabul, Ghafoor Ahmad Jawed, claimed that local officials’ description of the military facility as a base was inaccurate.

Mr. Jawed said it was a “check post” that included representatives of the Afghan National Army and other units. Mr. Jawed also denied that the Taliban had captured it, saying it had been abandoned by defenders. “We don’t know the number of A.N.A. forces in the check post and the number of casualties yet,” Mr. Jawed said.

Mohammad Safdar Mohseni, head of the Baghlan provincial council, said that even before the main base fell, the death toll on Saturday was 22, including 16 army soldiers, four police special forces officers and two local police officers.

Mangalha village was formerly a Taliban stronghold and the insurgents had surrounded the military base last year, only to have the government reclaim control of the area.

The insurgents destroyed another Afghan military base and a nearby police post in Baghlan Province on Aug. 15, killing 39 soldiers and policemen, according to local officials. That base was also in Baghlan-e-Markazi District, in neighboring Alawuddin village.

Local officials said the loss of the two bases put the entire district at risk, and endangered travel on the country’s main north-south highway between the capital and northern Afghanistan.

“After the first base collapsed, other military posts are collapsing one after another,” said the provincial council chairman, Mr. Mohseni. “The Taliban seized a huge amount of weapons, ammunition and vehicles from these collapsed posts. This is a big threat for the security of Baghlan Province. The forces on the ground were not supported; they did not receive any reinforcement.”

The earlier defeat in Baghlan came a day after another northern base fell, at Chinese Camp, in northern Faryab Province, where all 106 soldiers of an Afghan Army company were either killed or captured by the insurgents. The defenders said they repeatedly called for reinforcements and resupply that they claim never arrived.

In central Afghanistan, Taliban insurgents on Sunday attacked the headquarters of Day Mirdad District in Wardak Province, killing the district police chief, Sayid Yunus, and nine other security officials, according to Abdul Rahman Mangal, spokesman for the governor of Wardak. Mr. Mangal said that 52 of the militants had been killed and 65 others wounded in the attack, which was repulsed.

In western Afghanistan, officials said the insurgents had attacked a police post in the Obe District of Herat Province, late Saturday night, killing nine police officers, according to Gaelany Farhad, spokesman for the governor. Sher Agha Alokozai, the Obe District police chief, said eight insurgents had also been killed.

Follow Najim Rahim and Rod Nordland on Twitter: @NajimRah and @rodnordland

Najim Rahim reported from Baghlan-e-Markazi, Afghanistan; and Rod Nordland from Kabul, Afghanistan. Fahim Abed contributed reporting from Kabul, and Mohammad Saber from Herat, Afghanistan.

Source: NYT > World

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