Afghan policemen defect to Taliban in Farah province

An Afghan police commander and 13 junior officers have joined the Taliban in the western Afghan province of Farah, in what correspondents say could be the biggest defection by police. (The commander was based in Shewan village in the district of Bala Bulak, which was until recently considered a Taliban stronghold.)

Police and intelligence officials deployed in the province said the commander poisoned seven policemen in his charge who had refused to defect along with him.

“Mirwais and his policemen had joined the force nearly two-and-a-half years ago. Mirwais had fought the insurgents in this area for quite some time,” an Afghan intelligence official in the region told the BBC’s Bilal Sarwary in Kabul.

“Long before he defected, he must have been passing intelligence and crucial information to the insurgents,” the official said.

Officials said that the equipment taken by the defectors – rocket-propelled grenades, heavy machine-guns, radios and police vehicles, including two Humvees – will be a major boost to the Taliban in the area.

Humvees are prized trophies among Taliban commanders, both for their symbolic value and practical ability to travel over rough ground with armoured protection, correspondents say.

Our correspondent says this is believed to be the biggest police defection to the insurgents. Over the past few years similar incidents have taken place on a much smaller scale in the southern provinces of Kandahar, Helmand, Zabul, Uruzgan and in Ghor, Farah, Badghis and Herat in the west.

Such incidents have rarely been reported in the Afghan media, our correspondent says.

Farah has a strategic position, bordering Iran, and the key Kandahar-Herat highway passes through Farah.

BBC 24JUL12

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