AFGHANISTAN & PAKISTAN

Taliban kill 7 Afghan police in outpost attack

Journalist dies in Kabul from wounds sustained in a Taliban attack on a French-run school

A Taliban-claimed attack in northern Afghanistan has left seven members of the Afghan police dead and five injured.

The Saturday evening raid on an outpost of the Afghan Local Police in Qush Tepa district of Jowzjan province lasted for four hours as Taliban fighters and members of the village defense forced traded fire.

Speaking to local media, Ahmad Farid Azizi, provincial police spokesman, said the clash led to 12 deaths -- seven ALP and five Taliban fighters. Another five ALP and five Taliban were wounded in the fighting.

In a statement claiming responsibility for the attack, Taliban spokesman Zabihullah Mujahid said the group overran two ALP outposts and left 12 people dead. The group has often been known to exaggerate their claims.

Elsewhere in the country, seven civilians, including three children, were killed in Kunar province when their vehicle struck an improvised explosive device Saturday night.

Shuja-ul-Mulk Jalala, acting provincial governor, said the Narai district blast left four men and three children dead. Another three people were injured.

The use of IEDs has increasingly become the leading cause of civilian casualties in the Central Asian nation. In 2013, IEDs accounted for 34 percent of civilian casualties in the nation.

Also in the east, an explosion in Nangarhar province left one member of the Afghan National Security Forces dead.

The late morning blast was detonated as a military vehicle passed near the Torkham border crossing with Pakistan.

Ahmad Zia Abdulzai, provincial spokesman, said the nature of the blast has yet to be discerned. "It is not yet clear if the blast was caused by a roadside mine or a magnetic mine,"  Abdulzai told local media.

A passing civilian was also injured in the blast.

In Kabul, Ahmad Zubair Hatami, cameraman for the local Mitra television station, succumbed to injuries he sustained during a Taliban-claimed suicide bombing at the capital’s Lycee Esteqlal earlier this month.

The Dec. 11 attack left 20 people, who were attending the performance of a play about suicide bombings injured. 

Hatami’s death, which has outraged the local journalism community, marks the eighth time a journalist has died while covering the conflict this year.

Najib Sharifi, director of the Afghan Journalist Safety Commission, said he was startled by the death of Hatami.

Speaking to The Times, Sharifi said Hatami’s death marks an unprecedented rise in the number of journalists killed while reporting on the ongoing conflict in Afghanistan.

“Never in 13 years have we had so many deaths in a single year”, Sharifi told The Times.

Sharifi went on to say that the statement released by the Taliban shortly after the attack on the Lycee Esteqlal shows a serious shift in the group’s thinking.

“For the first time they laid out exactly who they intend to target and that list included journalists”. Sharifi said.

In the statement,  the nation’s largest armed opposition movement warned that all media, civil society or other organizations who attend or publish “such anti-Islam programs will be our target” from now on.

Several Afghan journalists have organized a boycott of Taliban-related news in response to Hatami’s death. A similar boycott was called for after the March attack on the Serena Hotel that killed AFP journalist Ahmad Sardar and his family.

Copyright © 2016, Los Angeles Times

UPDATE

4:26 a.m.: This story was updated with new details throughout.

This story was first posted at 12:50 a.m.

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