At least 20 Afghan commandos were killed in a Taliban ambush in western Afghanistan, officials said Wednesday, marking yet another loss for the elite troops amid a push to end the war.
Provincial governor Abdul Ghafoor Malikzai said the special forces soldiers were ambushed Monday after flying into Abkamari district in Badghis province, a known Taliban hot spot.
‘The commando forces descended... without coordination with other security forces,’ Malikzai said.
‘They were surrounded by Taliban fighters and fought for hours. Unfortunately, 21 of them were killed. Some were captured,’ he added.
The Afghan defence ministry had no immediate comment. Abdul Aziz Bek, the head of the Badghis provincial council, put the toll at 29 killed, saying some of the Afghan soldiers had been slain after they’d been captured.
‘Some 40 commando soldiers were brought in by four helicopters from neighbouring Ghor province for an operation, but they got ambushed as soon as they descended.
The Taliban claimed responsibility, saying over 30 soldiers had been killed. Afghanistan’s small, US-trained special operations forces represent only a small fraction of the approximately 300,000-member security forces.
On Saturday, four Afghan security forces were killed in Qala-i-Naw, the capital of Badghis province, when Taliban insurgents attacked a hotel.
Meanwhile, the Taliban have shut down dozens of health facilities run by a Swedish aid group in a move affecting thousands of people, especially women and children, the agency said Wednesday.
Doctors and hospitals have been frequently targeted by both sides during the country’s decades-long conflict, and this latest loss follows a raid by Afghan security forces on a clinic last week that left four people dead.
The closures have hit Wardak province west of Kabul, where the Taliban have shuttered 42 of the 77 health facilities being run by the Swedish Committee for Afghanistan, the aid group said in a statement.
‘Due to this closure, an estimated number of over 5,700 patients are affected on a daily basis,’ it said.
Denying people medical treatment and health services in this way ‘is an obvious violation of human rights and international humanitarian law’, SCA’s country director Sonny Mansson said.
‘We demand immediate reopening of all health facilities for the people and we strongly urge all parties involved in conflict to refrain from such actions which deliberately put civilian lives at risk.’
The Taliban have not issued any statement, but the militants have previously closed down health clinics and banned polio vaccination campaigns in areas under their control.
In some areas, insurgents and religious leaders tell communities that vaccines are a Western conspiracy aiming to sterilise Muslim children, or that such programmes are an elaborate cover for Western or Afghan government spies.
Last year, the Taliban warned the International Committee of the Red Cross that the group would no longer protect its workers.
The threat forced the ICRC to significantly scale back its Afghan operations.
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