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Afghan police kill 7 comrades, defect to Taliban

Written by: Staff
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KANDAHAR, Afghanistan, June 5 (Reuters) Five Afghan police shot dead seven fellow officers as they slept, before defecting to join Taliban guerrillas fighting in southern Afghanistan, a provincial official said today.

Yesterday night's incident outside Qalat, the provincial capital of southern province of Zabul, comes amid the bloodiest period in an insurgency raging since US-backed forces toppled the militants' government in 2001.

''The seven policemen were asleep when the other five jumped, killed them, took their arms and joined the Taliban,'' provincial spokesman, Gulab Shah Alikhail, told Reuters.

He said provincial officials were hunting the five policemen and had ''intelligence'' that they had joined the Taliban.

While there have been many cases of police running away from the Taliban, hitherto there have been no reports of police defecting to the guerrillas.

More than 400 people, most of them militants, dozens of Afghan security forces, and at least 17 civilians and four foreign troops were killed in the fighting last month.

Last week, the Taliban attacked a district headquarters in neighbouring Uruzgan province, killed more than 10 police, captured up to 40 others, but released 20 of them after getting ''commitments that they would desert the government''.

A few days later, US-led coalition forces and Afghan troops recaptured the district.

The Taliban have vowed to overthrow President Hamid Karzai's Western-backed government and drive out foreign forces from Afghanistan. The surge in the insurgency comes as NATO members have begun deploying thousands of peacekeeping troops in southern provinces where the Taliban are most active.

REUTERS KD KN1741

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