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Afghan insurgents abduct, hang 8-year-old boy

Police officer’s son killed for father’s refusal

Ashraf Ghani, head of the Transition Commission, kissed the Afghan police flag in Bazarak, Afghanistan. Children tied to security forces are increasingly being targeted by insurgents. Ashraf Ghani, head of the Transition Commission, kissed the Afghan police flag in Bazarak, Afghanistan. Children tied to security forces are increasingly being targeted by insurgents. (Musadeq Sadeq/ Associated Press)
By Rahim Faiez
Associated Press / July 25, 2011

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KABUL - Insurgents in southern Afghanistan hanged the 8-year-old son of a police officer six days after they abducted him, the Afghan government said yesterday, calling it part of a pattern of retaliatory killings and abductions involving children.

The boy’s captors had demanded that his father, a police officer, supply them with a police vehicle and he refused, according to a statement from President Hamid Karzai’s office. In apparent retaliation, the militants hanged the boy Friday and dumped his body into a stream in Helmand Province.

Officials said the death was the latest in a series of killings of children with suspected ties to Afghan security forces. A government statement referred to the killers as “terrorists,’’ but did not say whether they belonged to the Taliban or another of the insurgent movements fighting foreign forces and their Afghan allies.

“President Karzai both strongly condemns this act and rejects it as a brutal and cowardly crime that is not acceptable in any religion or culture,’’ the statement said.

The officer, Mohammed Daoud, 36, told officials he had received an anonymous phone call Thursday demanding that he hand over his vehicle. The caller said Daoud’s son, Mohammed Ibrahim, had been kidnapped and would be killed if he did not comply.

Kidnappings have become increasingly common in Afghanistan, both by criminal groups looking for ransoms and insurgents making a political statement. Many abductions are settled out of the public eye, with negotiations and cash payments.

In another development yesterday, Afghan officials said NATO forces battling insurgents along an eastern highway accidentally killed three civilians who were caught in the crossfire.

NATO said that local residents presented the bodies of three civilians killed. Captain Justin Brockhoff, a spokesman, said it was unclear whose fire had killed them.

The battle broke out after international troops struck a roadside bomb in Wardak Province.

The dead included a woman who was a provincial health official. Wardak government spokesman Shahidullah Shahid said Dr. Aqeela Hekmat and two of her family members were killed in their vehicle, and her husband was injured. Aqeela was the head of gynecology and maternal health for neighboring Ghazni Province.

Provincial Police Chief General Abdul Qayum Baqizai also confirmed three deaths and said it was clear that they were killed by NATO fire. Karzai’s office said it was investigating the allegations.

The incidents were among many reminders over the last week that the war is still on.

As Helmand’s provincial capital of Lashkar Gah marked the official start of its transition from NATO to Afghan control on Wednesday, fierce fighting broke out in the market town of Siraqula.

Lashkar Gah is one of five provincial capitals and two provinces that Karzai deemed ready for Afghan control in the next several months.

The transition to Afghan control will allow international military forces to start withdrawing slowly from Afghanistan. NATO intends these transition areas to be the leading edge of an emergent sovereign state capable of quelling the insurgency and providing for its citizens by the time the coalition completes the withdrawal of combat troops in 2014.

It remains unclear, however, whether the modest security gains achieved in the provincial capital will expand to Taliban strongholds in northern Helmand, where US Marines are still trying to pacify prime poppy-growing areas that are the insurgency’s profit center.

The Marine patrol base in Salaam Bazaar is in a blocking position at the junction of three roads connecting the northern district centers of Nawzad to the northwest and Musa Qala to the northeast and Gereshk to the south.

Although Marines improved security in many of Helmand’s main population centers last year, motorcycle-borne Taliban still control roads with checkpoints and mines. The result has been a scattered archipelago of Helmand towns that are cut off from one another, a hobbled economy and provincial government institutions that cannot extend essential services.

With its 100 stalls, Salaam Bazaar was once a regional commercial center for farmers and small businesses until opium and arms dealers took it over and insurgents used it as a base to disrupt traffic on the Gereshk road. In May, Marines set up a patrol base less than a mile from the bazaar and tried to clear it for the second time in a year, but somehow the insurgency learned of the plan.

Residents routinely tell the Marines that they detest the insurgency but fear retribution if they cooperate with NATO forces. And all of them were aware that the Taliban would be around long after the coalition leaves.

Of the 30,000 coalition troops in Helmand, a number of Marines stationed in the province will leave by the end of the year and others may shift to eastern Afghanistan where NATO officials say more international terrorists are based.

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