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Afghanistan Helmand violence: At least 19 police killed

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At least 19 Afghan border police officers were killed when Taliban fighters overran their posts in Nawzad district of the southern province of Helmand, police have told the BBC.

Officers said the insurgents overran three police checkpoints and that five policemen were missing in addition to those killed.

At least four were injured in prolonged fighting over the last three days.

Helmand has seen some of the fiercest clashes between Nato and the Taliban.

Violence in the province intensified following the US-led invasion of Afghanistan in 2001 and has continued since Nato began winding down its troop numbers in the country from the beginning of this year.

In August the Taliban seized control of the strategically-important Musa Qala district headquarters, once a key Nato position. It was the second town in northern Helmand to fall to the insurgents in recent weeks.

Image copyright Reuters
Image caption The Afghan army is on the back foot in Helmand province
Image copyright Getty Images
Image caption The military base base at Musa Qala in Helmand province was captured by the Taliban in August

Provincial council Director Karim Attal told the BBC on Wednesday that the Taliban had seized a significant quantity of arms in the latest fighting.

"They captured two armoured vehicles and a large number of weapons," he said.

Another provincial council member, Bashir Ahmad Shakir, told the AFP news agency that if reinforcements had arrived earlier, the lives of some police officers could have been saved.

The Taliban have claimed responsibility for the attack.

Violence has increased sharply across all of Afghanistan since most foreign forces withdrew in December, leaving only a small contingent of about 12,000 Nato troops to train Afghan forces.

The Taliban have extended their influence in Helmand into isolated towns in the north of the province, where Afghan security forces are vulnerable to attack.

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