Afghan conflict: Dozens killed in 'brutal' Sar-e Pul attack

BY BBCAug 08,2017 at 09:25

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At least 50 civilians have been killed by militants in northern Afghanistan, officials say.

They report that a checkpoint manned by local police was attacked on Thursday in the Mirzawalang area of Sar-e Pul province.

The assailants then entered a nearby village and shot dead mainly Shia Muslim civilians including women and children, a provincial spokesman said.

"They were killed in a brutal, inhumane way," he added.

Seven members of the Afghan security forces had also been killed, as well as a number of insurgents, he said.

The attack took place over 48 hours and the area was now under insurgent control, local officials said.

A combination of Taliban and Islamic State (IS) group fighters - including foreigners - were involved, a spokesman said. Both are Sunni Muslim militant groups.

The Taliban denied killing civilians, saying that their fighters had killed 28 members of a government-supported militia in the area. There has been no comment from IS.

If verified, it would be rare co-operation between the two groups. IS established a small base in eastern Afghanistan in 2015 and in general its fighters have clashed with the Taliban in a competition for control.

But, correspondents say, in the north of the country allegiances can be more fluid, with some fighters switching sides or co-operating with other groups. A Taliban spokesman told AFP news agency there had been no co-operation with IS, however.

'Barbaric act'

Afghan President Ashraf Ghani condemned the attack.

"Criminal terrorists have once again killed civilians, women and children," he said in a statement on Sunday.

"This barbaric act of them is deemed a direct violation of human rights and a war crime."

Fighting has intensified across Afghanistan in recent months. More than 1,662 civilians were killed in the half of the year, according to UN figures.

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