Gunmen kill eight Afghan guards heading for work at US air base

An Afghan policeman stands guard outside a mosque where a suicide bomber detonated a bomb, in Kabul on June 16.

An Afghan policeman stands guard outside a mosque where a suicide bomber detonated a bomb, in Kabul on June 16.

Suspected Taliban gunmen ambushed Afghan guards who were in a vehicle headed to work at the US-run Bagram air base, killing at least eight people as part of a surge of attacks by militants around the country, officials said.

A Taliban spokesman, Zabiullah Mujahid, said the group carried out the assault late on Monday (Tuesday NZ Time) and described the victims as spies for the US military.

Attacks by the Taliban and its Islamic State rivals have been on the rise in Afghanistan as the US completes plans to send several thousand more troops to bolster Afghan forces and the 8500 US troops already in the country.

"We cannot rule out anything - enemy attack, local or tribal hostility," police chief Mohammad Zaman Mamozai said by phone in reference to the attack on the Bagram guards. He said two other occupants of the vehicle suffered bullet wounds.

READ MORE: US soldiers killed by Afghan soldier in insider attack


Meanwhile, violence flared in a series of attacks around the country and in the capital, Kabul, between security forces and protesters who had occupied a busy avenue for the past three weeks.

Videos of the Kabul clashes posted on social media showed a number of wounded men lying on the street late on Monday as well as the body of a man. Protesters claim the man was shot by police. Security officials and the government spokesmen were unavailable for comment.

A protest organiser, Ramish Noori, said several people were arrested.

Afghanistan's chief executive, Abdullah Abdullah, confirmed on live TV that one protester had been killed and six others wounded. He called for an investigation into the clash.

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"Last night's event in Kabul has shocked all of us," he said.

Protesters have expressed frustration with US-backed President Ashraf Ghani and his inability to stem the rising tide of violence, including a devastating truck bomb on May 31 in Kabul that killed 150 people.

After police opened fire on an anti-government protest three weeks ago, protesters set up tents vowing to remain until the president resigned.

Afghanistan's Independent Human Rights Commission denounced the "illegal" actions by security forces, raising worried about increased "intimidation and fear."

"Tonight's move against the protesters ... is not acceptable and the government is responsible for any legal and humanitarian violation," Fawzia Koofi, a lawmaker, said in a message.

Omar Ahmad Parwani, an organiser of the protest, called for massive anti-government marches and blocking key roads in the capital.

While frustration has been high among Afghans with Ghani's government because of the poor economy, corruption and the rising number of attacks, the sit-in never attracted more than a few dozen protesters at a time and many residents complained that it worsened the city's already congested traffic.

Twice now police have opened fire on protesters, which might discourage more from taking to the street.

Elsewhere, four policemen were killed when their car hit a roadside bomb on Tuesday (Wednesday NZT) in Helmand province, a Taliban stronghold in southwestern Afghanistan, Omar Zwak, a spokesman for the provincial governor, told the Associated Press.

In eastern Nangahar province, a judge was killed when a bomb blew apart his vehicle, according to Attuhullah Khogyani, spokesman for the provincial governor, the AP reported. The Islamic State claimed responsibility in a statement distributed by its media arm, the Aamaq news agency.

 - The Washington Post

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