Afghan police mistakenly kill parliament member
National police hunting for a wounded insurgent commander mistakenly ambushed a vehicle carrying a member of the Afghan parliament, killing him and his son, provincial officials said Wednesday.
President Hamid Karzai ordered an investigation of the incident, which took place overnight in Baghlan province in Afghanistan’s north.
Taliban fighters and other insurgents have made significant inroads in the province over the last year. A new NATO supply route runs through the area, making it a magnet for militant strikes.
The lawmaker, Mohammad Yunos Shirnagha, was returning home after a late-night meeting with constituents when the shootout with police erupted, said Gen. Kabir Andarabi, the provincial police chief.
Police in the provincial capital, Pul-i-Khumri, had been expecting insurgents to try to transport a commander who was believed to have been injured in a clash hours earlier. That battle left four police officers and at least four militants dead and several insurgents wounded.
Accounts from Shirnagha’s associates and provincial authorities differed as to the circumstances surrounding the shootout, which took place about 2:30 a.m.
Police said the lawmaker’s car ran a roadblock set up by the authorities and that his vehicle was hit after warning shots were ignored.
But some fellow members of the upper house of parliament, along with two surviving bodyguards, expressed doubts that the police had properly identified themselves before opening fire.
The incident raises new questions about the training and abilities of Afghan security forces, which are a linchpin of the Obama administration’s plans for an eventual drawdown of U.S. forces in Afghanistan.
Western officials hope that Afghan police and soldiers will in the next several years be able to assume responsibility for safeguarding the country.
In the meantime, an additional 30,000 U.S. troops and 7,000 from North Atlantic Treaty Organization allies are to be deployed in the coming year.
Underscoring the importance placed on the role of Afghan security forces, Karzai paid a visit Wednesday to a police academy and also visited Afghan police officers and soldiers who have been injured in the line of duty.
He was accompanied by the top U.S. and allied commander in Afghanistan, Army Gen. Stanley A. McChrystal, who has said he would like to see Afghan security forces grow to 400,000 from their current strength of about 250,000.
Also Wednesday, a roadside bomb apparently aimed at coalition forces killed three civilians and injured five in Helmand province, in Afghanistan’s south.
Military authorities Wednesday also reported the death of a British soldier in a roadside bombing a day earlier, also in Helmand.