June 3, 2006

Karzai purges police, Taliban repulsed in Afghan south

By Sayed Salahuddin

KABUL (Reuters) - Afghanistan's President Hamid Karzai has
sacked dozens of senior police officials days after anti-U.S.
riots in Kabul, an official said on Saturday, while up to 32
Taliban fighters were killed in clashes in the south.

The shake-up may also include Kabul's police chief, General
Jamil Junbish, whose forces failed to prevent rioters from
rampaging through the city on Monday after a U.S. military
truck crashed into Afghan vehicles and killed at least five

The worst anti-American unrest in Kabul since the fall of
the Taliban in 2001 coincided with the bloodiest phase in a 4
1/2 year-old insurgency raging in the country's south and east.

Nearly 400 people died in May alone, mostly militants
killed by coalition air strikes, but at least 17 civilians were
also killed, fuelling resentment against the U.S. military

On Friday, coalition and Afghan troops recaptured a
district of the central southern province of Uruzgan that had
fallen under Taliban control for the past few days.

"Fifteen bodies of the enemies of Afghanistan lie in the
battle field and up to 20 of them have been killed. The
operation is still going on against the enemies who are on the
run," Zahir Azimi, a Defense Ministry spokesman, said in a

A coalition spokesman said the operation had involved air
strikes. He could not comment on Taliban casualties, but said
there were none on the U.S. and Afghan side.

After the Taliban took the district, they said they had
killed over a dozen police and had taken up to 40 as hostages.
Twenty were later released.

Separately, 12 Taliban were killed in an attack on a police
station in neighboring Kandahar province on Friday, said Dawud
Ahmadi, a spokesman for the provincial governor.


The Taliban is active in Kabul too, but no-one has blamed
them for the riots on May 29, which were largely fueled by
youths from the northern parts of the city, where people are
generally hostile not only to the Taliban, but Karzai too.

Monday riots in the capital prompted Karzai to order the
replacement of more than 80 interior ministry generals, the
official said on condition of anonymity.

The interior ministry said in a statement that 86 police
generals have been appointed for "improvement and maintenance
of security and for necessary reforms in the ministry."

Police generals are in charge of precincts and departments
within the Interior Ministry.

During Monday's protests against the U.S. presence, rioters
looted shops, besieged a television station, burned the offices
of a U.S. aid group, and broke windows of a new hotel before
reaching the gates of parliament and the U.S. embassy.

At least seven people were killed in the riots.

The top traffic police officer in the district where the
accident happened said he saw U.S. soldiers at the tail of a
withdrawing convoy shoot three people as hundreds of people
surged toward departing U.S. vehicles.

Karzai, who was also the target of protesters anger, has
condemned the use of arms by the U.S.-led coalition forces.

Kabul has been under a night time curfew since the riots.