Taliban Ambush Kills 20 Police Officers

KONFRONTASI-A firefight has been taking place between Taliban fighters and Afghan security forces after the militants ambushed Helmand checkpoints killing 20 police officers.

The militants launched a string of night-time attacks on checkpoints in the volatile province in the south of Afghanistan, where the Taliban enjoys a stronghold.

Reinforcements have been sent from other regions to help regain control of the area of the Musa Qala district.

Small checkpoints, manned by only two or three officers, have become a major target for the Taliban since the militants launched their summer offensive in April.

Last month in the province's Naw Zad district 19 police officers were killed in a similar attack.

Police and army officials are planning to create larger checkpoints with up to 15 men in response to the raids. 

Mohammad Ismail Hotak, the head of the province's joint coordination of police and military operations, said the Friday night attacks had also left at least 10 officers wounded and said the Taliban had also suffered high casualties.

There have been fears of a Taliban surge in the wake of the drawdown of US troops and as Afghan forces attempt to fight the militants alone, casualties are soaring.

According to Nato figures, 2,322 army and police personnel have been killed between January and May this year - a 53% increase on the same period in the previous year.

A total of 2,217 US service members and 453 UK military personnel were killed in the conflict between 2001 and 2014.[mr/skynews]