KABUL, Afghanistan (AP) — The Taliban beheaded 12 Afghan civilians, mostly family members of local policemen, in an assault that was part of a week-long offensive that has so far killed 60 people and wounded scores in a remote province in eastern Afghanistan, officials said Friday.
The violence comes amid the annual Taliban offensive, which this year will be an important gauge of how well Afghan government forces are able to face insurgent attacks ahead of the withdrawal of foreign combat troops at the end of the year.
According to the Ghazni provincial deputy police chief, Asadullah Ensafi, the Taliban on Thursday night captured and beheaded 12 civilians and torched some 60 homes in an attack in the province’s district of Arjistan.
Details were sketchy because of the remoteness of the rugged mountainous area, about 100 kilometers (60 miles) southwest of the capital, Kabul, but Afghan officials said women and children were believed to be among the casualties. There are no NATO troops stationed in the district.
Beheadings are rare in Afghanistan, though they occasionally take place as part of the Taliban campaign to intimidate and exact revenge on the families of Afghan troops and security forces.
Over the past week, the Taliban have been attacking several villages in Ghazni’s Arjistan district, Ensafi said, and battles in the area were still raging Friday, he said.
On Friday morning, the Taliban detonated a car bomb in front of an encampment where some 40 Afghan policemen were based in Arjistan, killing at least 8 policemen, said the province’s deputy governor, Mohammad Ali Ahmadi.
Ensafi said it was not immediately possible to reach the area to determine the exact number of casualties because the insurgents had mined the roads.
Ahmadi, who also confirmed the beheadings, said that attack and the car bomb brought the overall death toll in the Taliban offensive in Ghazni to 60. The victims included both civilians and policemen, he said.
Ahmadi said Afghan commandos have been airlifted from Kabul to the area to battle the Taliban and prevent the district from falling to the insurgents.
In Kabul, Ghazni lawmaker Nafisa Azimi said the situation in the province remains very dangerous, adding that the Taliban have taken scores of civilians from Arjistan hostage.
Each spring and summer bring an escalation in fighting in Afghanistan with the end of snowy winter weather, which hampers movement. The melting of the snows also opens up mountain passes, allowing militant forces to move in from neighboring Pakistan.
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