KABUL, Afghanistan: Taliban fighters have struck in two Afghan provinces, targeting the country's police forces and leaving at least 10 policemen dead, officials said Wednesday.
In northeastern Badakhshan province, a large group of insurgents attacked several police checkpoints late Tuesday, forcing the police to retreat and triggering gunbattles that were still raging on Wednesday. Six policemen were killed there.
And in eastern Laghman province, insurgents wearing head-to-toe burqas - the traditional women's covering that encompasses the female body - launched an attack on a district base belonging to the local police that killed four policemen.
The attacks are part of the Taliban spring offensive that was launched last week in a renewed campaign of assaults on the Afghan police and military. This season, the offensive is expected to be an important gauge of how well Afghan forces can face the insurgents once foreign combat forces leave at the end of the year.
In the attack in Badakhshan province, a large group of Taliban simultaneously hit several police checkpoints in Yamgan district. Gen. Fazeluddin Ayar, the province's police chief, said the fighting started late Tuesday and was still underway Wednesday.
Reinforcements were sent to the location but the police were forced to pull back tactically from the area and were now fighting the Taliban forces in the mountains around the district, Ayar said. He added that Afghan Army helicopters were flying over the district as the battle raged on below.
Apart from the six officers killed, five insurgents have also died in the gunbattle and three police officers were wounded, he added.
The Taliban said their mujahedeen, or holy warriors, raised the insurgents' white flag above the Yamgan district headquarters in Badakhshan in a sign of conquest.
The other attack, in Laghman province, started early Wednesday morning with insurgents dressed as women opening machinegun fire and firing rocket-propelled grenades into the local police base in Alingar district, said Sarhadi Zwak, the spokesman for the provincial governor.
Zwak said four members of the Local Police were killed and that there were causalities among the Taliban but gave no more details.
The Taliban claimed responsibility both for the Badakhshan and the Laghman attacks in a statement to media, saying they are part of the spring offensive named Operation Khaibar - after a famous battle from the time of the Prophet Muhammed.
This time, the Taliban spring offensive comes as voters prepare to go to the polls for the second round of presidential balloting on June 14. The Taliban have pledged to disrupt the vote with bombings and other violence, although the first round of voting on April 5 passed relatively peacefully.