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East India Suspected Insurgent Attack: Nine Police Officers Killed

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Suspected Maoist insurgents killed nine policemen during an ambush in eastern India, authorities said Tuesday. A 10th officer is missing.


Police officials carry a coffin of a colleague on April 8, 2010, after his death in a Maoist attack in Chhattisgarh.

The attack took place Monday in a remote area of Gariaband in Chhattisgarh state when the officers were on their way to search a house as part of anti-Maoist operation, said state police spokesman Rajesh Mishra.

Their truck broke down, and they were attacked as they were waiting for a second vehicle to arrive, he said.

About 10 days ago, seven officers were killed when they were ambushed as they were returning from routine patrol, Mishra said.

“It’s a war-like situation here,” he said.

The Maoist movement is considered by the government as India’s greatest internal security threat.

The Maoist guerrillas are called Naxalites after Naxalbari, a village in neighboring West Bengal state where they originated in the late 1960s.

Officials say the Naxals aim to seize political power through what they call a protracted people’s war.

For their part, the insurgents have claimed since the 1960s to be fighting for the dispossessed.

Over the years, they targeted Indian security forces in several impoverished eastern Indian states that have become known as the “Red Corridor.”

The slow-churning unrest has killed about 2,000 people.

Author Arundhati Roy defends Kashmir statements

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NEW DELHI – Indian author Arundhati Roy, facing possible sedition charges over remarks she made about disputed Indian Kashmir, said on Tuesday she had only been calling for “justice” for the region.


The Booker prize winning Indian author, Arundhathi Roy

Roy’s statement came after police in New Delhi said they were weighing whether to bring sedition charges against the Booker prize-winning author over comments she made about Kashmir in recent days.

The author of the novel “The God of Small Things” issued a statement Tuesday saying her remarks urging “azadi” or freedom for Kashmir were “fundamentally a call for justice.”

The region has been beset by anti-India violence, curfews and strikes since early June, when a 17-year-old student was killed by a police teargas shell. Since then, a total of 111 protesters and bystanders have died.

“What I say comes from love and pride. It comes from not wanting people to be killed, raped, imprisoned or have their fingernails pulled out in order to force them to say they are Indians,” she said in an emailed statement.

Arundhati, who has emerged in recent years as a prominent social activist, has spoken out on two occasions in recent days on Kashmir, in one instance sharing a stage with hardline separatist Kashmiri leader Syed Ali Shah Geelani.

The Hindu nationalist Bharatiya Janata Party has objected strongly to Roy’s remarks, calling them “seditious” and accusing the Congress-led government of “looking the other way” by not taking any legal action against Roy.

Law Minister Veerappa Moily said the comments were “most unfortunate”. While there is freedom of speech, “it can’t violate the patriotic sentiments of the people,” Moily said, according to the Press Trust of India.

Nuclear-armed India and Pakistan each hold part of Kashmir but claim it in full. India insists that Kashmir is an “integral part” of the country.

The Himalayan region, which has triggered two wars between the nuclear-armed neighbours, has been wracked by a militant insurgency against Indian rule since 1989.

Rebel violence has declined sharply since the start of a peace process between India and Pakistan.

Roy said in her statement that she had read in Indian newspapers that she might be arrested on charges of sedition for her remarks supporting freedom for Kashmir.

“I said what millions of people here (in Kashmir) say every day. I said what I as well as other commentators have written and said for years,” she said.

“Anybody who cares to read the transcripts of my speeches will see that they were fundamentally a call for justice,” she said.

Geelani also faces the threat of sedition charges for comments he made while sharing the podium with Roy, according to the Indian media.

When told of the possible charges, the elderly separatist leader said 90 such cases had already been filed against him.

“Let this be the 91st,” he declared.

Five hurt as security forces fire on Indian Kashmir protest

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SRINAGAR, India – Five people were wounded Tuesday when Indian security forces opened fire on protesters who attacked their vehicles with stones during a demonstration against Indian rule, police said.


An Indian Central Reserve Police Force serviceman stops a motercyclist during a curfew in Srinagar

“Security forces had to open fire to ward off violent protesters who attacked security force vehicles with stones and bricks,” a police officer said, asking not to be named.

The incident took place in southern Pulwama district.

Four more people, including two policemen, were injured in two separate clashes between police and stone-throwing protesters elsewhere in Muslim-majority Kashmir valley, the officer said.

Since a wave of violent anti-India protests began in June, 111 people have been killed by security forces, mostly when they have opened fire on stone-throwing protesters during some of the biggest pro-freedom demonstrations in two decades.

Indian Kashmir has been under rolling curfews and strikes since the protests began on June 11, when a 17-year old student was killed by a police teargas shell in Srinagar.

On Tuesday, a curfew was imposed in parts of Indian Kashmir summer capital Srinagar to pre-empt a separatist march, police said.

In other parts of Srinagar, where a curfew was not in force, a separatist strike closed down shops and businesses.

The fresh violence came as Indian experts trying to defuse tensions in Kashmir have been holding a series of talks, despite opposition by separatists who have been spearheading the recent protests.

Home Minister P. Chidambaram said last week that the government had selected senior journalist Dilip Padgaonkar and professors M.M. Ansari and Radha Kumar to hold talks with separatists and other people in the troubled state.

The team arrived in Indian Kashmir summer capital Srinagar on Saturday.

They have held talks with jailed militants, university students, pro-India politicians, ordinary citizens and the region’s chief minister, Omar Abdullah.

MQM slams US for Dr Aafia Siddiqui’s sentence

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KARACHI: Muttahida Qaumi Movement (MQM) chief Altaf Hussain deemed the United States responsible for the unrest in the world, demanding the release of Dr Aafia Siddiqui.


Pakistan said it would leave “no stone unturned” in trying to bring home Dr Aafia Siddiqui, who was sentenced to 86 years in jail by a US court.

Hussain addressed the scores of people, estimated to be 300,000 by the MQM, who gathered on his call at MA Jinnah road, near Tibet centre, on Tuesday to condemn an American court’s verdict of Siddiqui’s case.

On September 23, she was sentenced to 86 years in prison on seven charges, including the attempt to murder US military personnel.

The rally was declared successful as members of MQM-opposing groups including the Sunni Tehreek and Jamiat Ulema-e-Islam also participated in the rally. Representatives of the Pakistan Peoples Party, Pakistan Muslim League-Quaid, Karachi Bar Association, trade unions also joined to condemn the verdict of Dr Siddiqui’s case.

Claiming that Siddiqui is innocent, Hussain demanded her release. “The Americans are responsible for what they have done to the world. America has killed innocent people in Iraq and Afghanistan,” he decried.

“The allegations against Dr Siddiqui are false as they could not prove them. America is answerable [not Dr Siddiqui],” he said, slamming the US. Hussain claimed that ninety percent of the world’s population is against the US and its policies.

The MQM showed solidarity with Dr Siddiqui’s cause in more than one way – representatives of MQM’s Rabita Committee were sitting with Dr Siddiqui’s sister, Fauzia Siddiqui. Altaf Hussain called for a united stand on Dr Siddiqui’s case, urging all civil society groups to join in the “struggle”. “Dr Aafia is the daughter of the nation and a symbol of pride [as she] stood courageously and faced the trial. It was exemplary to see a Muslim woman not give up and fight,” Hussain claimed.

Security arrangements

A few hours before the rally, men in yellow caps guarded the entry and exit points of the venue, while a heavy contingent of police and other law enforcing agencies were also deployed. MQM’s security personnel searched each and every participant of the rally at the entrance. The police was seen on the roofs of buildings around MA Jinnah road while the paramilitary Rangers took their resistant positions after the rally ended.

Rallies across Sindh

Several rallies were organised in various parts of the province to protest against Dr Siddiqui’s sentence. Activists of the Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz and the Muslim Students Federation held a demonstration outside the Hyderabad Press Club to condemn the sentence. Protesters shouted slogans against the verdict and claimed that the government has not taken the issue seriously.

Meanwhile, in Sukkur, a rally was led by Qutubud Din, the MQM Sukkur Zone incharge, during which protesters marched from Jinnah Chowk to the press club. Activists of the Sunni Tehreek and the Jeay Sindh Qaumi Mahaz also participated in the rally.

India’s Occupation of Kashmir to end soon

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By: Rohit Kumar

Despite its insensitivity and total ignorance to facts on the ground, Indian security apparatus is less than three months away from a disgraceful retreat from the occupied valley.

The Union Government of India sent a heavily constituted all-party delegation to Kashmir to assess the on-ground situation, meet with all strands of society in Kashmir, and to devise ways and means to overcome the current crisis faced by the Valley. It failed to do all three.

The delegation failed to assess the situation on the ground as it was heavily protected by military, police and Indian J&K government functionaries. It was totally protected from the rioters, the youth of Kashmir which was out on the streets demanding its rights – respect, autonomy, self-determination and the chance for a peaceful life without indiscriminate violence. The delegation, comprising 39 members and led by Union Home Minister Palaniappan Chidambaram, met with Mirwaiz Umar Farooq, a spiritual and political leader of the Valley’s majority Muslim population, while the latter was in forced house arrest. Why? Because the Mirwaiz refused to meet with the delegation. So he was forced to stay inside his home, while the delegation paid him a visit there. And everyone is aware of divisions within this delegation over its meeting with hardline Hurriyat leader Syed Ali Geelani, who proposes the independence of Kashmir. The BJP claimed that it did not want to meet Gilani, while CPI-M’s Sitaram Yechury said that the decision was a delegation-based one and approved by the delegation’s head, Mr. Chidambaram, who himself could not meet Geelani as it would violate procotol. Of course. How could the Union Home Minister acknowledge a separatist as a political leader of Kashmir? Finally, the delegation was unable to devise ways and means to rescue Kashmir from the current chaos, even though Mr. Chidambaram claimed that the future of Kashmir is secure as part of India. What wishful thinking, even as his own delegation crumbled and scrambled for any semblance of a unified position on the Kashmir issue.

The fact remains that Kashmir can never be an integral part of India unless and until atrocities committed by Indian forces (military, paramilitary and civil police) are atoned for and unless and until the murderers in uniform are held accountable. The repeal or withdrawal of Armed Forces (Special Powers) Act (AFPSA) has now become a thing of the future, and the past is yet to be reconciled with. The CPI-M’s Gurudas Dasgupta perhaps has the most sound understanding of the Kashmir situation: he stated that the Centre needed to take “calculated risks” to defuse it, and that the anger of the people of the Valley was not “unsubstantiated”. He also held that “the special position of the State has been gradually diluted”, adding that the use of weapons for crowd control was unjustified, whether it was guns, teargas shells, lathis or water cannons. In response to Army Chief Gen. V. K. Singh’s referral of AFSPA as an “enabling provision”, Dasgupta said that “the Army should not be allowed to make political statements. Democracy does not allow it”.

Dasgupta, a leftist MP, in an ominous tone, said “I have no hesitation in saying that the rest of India does not know what is happening in Kashmir and the people of the Valley feel that Indians do not show concern. There is a critical degree of alienation and if we still do not realise that we all need to do something, Kashmir may be lost to India”. An astute observation, but one that will fall on deaf ears.

The Union Government, who was in alliance with leftist parties till its proximity to the US became all too apparent with the nuclear deal, should pay attention to the same leftists who urged Mr. Chidambaram to allow the delegation to meet separatist leaders, including Geelani. While the delegation has fallen woefully short of its expectations, and has left unrequited hope and greater fears in its midst, it has at least interacted with all leaders of the Kashmiri people – including the jailed Shabir Shah of the Democratic Freedom Party. Yet, it remains aloof to the demands of autonomy, of freedom, of ‘azadi’; it has shut its ears to the slogans of ‘Go India, Go back’ and is willing to spill the blood of its own soldiers and troopers as far as the territory of Kashmir remains within the confines of the Indian confederation – whether any Kashmiri is left to claim Kashmir or not is a “non-issue”, and whether Kashmir becomes a ghost state or not is irrelevant.

The Indian Government must cease this blood-letting immediately. However, instead of taking a rational approach, the Indian government is preparing to counter Pakistani Foreign Minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi at the UN General Assembly despite multilateral calls (including by UN Secretary-General Ban Ki Moon and the OIC) for concern over the situation in Kashmir, and urges directed towards the Indian establishment to exercise restraint against Kashmiri civilians – which PM Manmohan Singh has called “Indian citizens”. Yet I do not see Indian citizens being shot at anywhere else. I do not see Indian women raped by army officers, soldiers and paramilitary jawans. And I do not see Indian citizens throwing stones at Indian authorities.

Maybe I need new glasses, or maybe the Union Government has actually blinded itself with fake visions of being a superpower that can not and will not “fall prey” to subnationalist motivations.

While more than 400 million Indians suffer in debilitating poverty, a report by the CIA claims that India is (or will be) the third most powerful country in the world. Let me survey a Kashmiri or a Maoist rebel to ask them if they agree with this CIA report. Let me ask a Dalit, or a Muslim in Ahmedabad, Gujarat.

India must wake up before it breaks up.

A well-read Indian daily has the most precise, most succinct statement to make regarding the Kashmir situation. It says that Kashmir has become the proverbial hen and egg story: Peace cannot be restored here unless talks are held, and the talks cannot be held unless peace is restored. In this cyclical debate, violence will only beget violence, ignorance will only inflame tempers, and guns can only silence some voices while ten cries are raised for every fallen one.

25 political murders in a week

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BY PARTHA DASGUPTA

IT IS war in West Bengal and Lalgarh is the battleground. Close on the heels of Trinamool Congress (TMC) supremo and Railway Minister Mamata Banerjee’s rally in Lalgarh on 9 August, the CPM has chosen to retaliate. In a public meeting on 27 August in his backyard at Garbeta, Paschimanchal affairs minister Sushanta Ghosh pledged that his party will “wrest” Lalgarh from the opposition – that it was just a matter of time.


Red trail The body of CPM member Dibakar Mahato, who was shot dead by Maoists in a retaliatory attack

Ghosh has been true to his word. In the next seven days, the CPM has orchestrated an all-out attack on its former bastion, from where it was driven out lock, stock and barrel by the People’s Committee Against Police Atrocities (PCAPA) in November 2008. The PCAPA drive followed a police manhunt after a landmine blast narrowly missed Chief Minister Buddhadeb Bhattacharya’s convoy in Salboni on 2 November 2008.

On 2 September, the CPM reopened its party office in Dharampur, some 10 km from Lalgarh, after 15 months. The man who led the huge procession from nearby Harina was CPM zonal secretary Anuj Pandey, whose house was razed on 15 June 2009 by a group led by Maoist commander Bikash. Pandey, who was in hiding in Midnapore since last June, held out a peace proposal for the locals. “Those of you who had drifted away from us, come back. Let’s all bury the past and work together,” he said, emboldened by the ring of Joint Forces who had laid siege on Dharampur.

Today, Lalgarh is surrounded by the CPM. The entire stretch from Dherua in Midnapore block to Dharampur is festooned with the CPM’s red flag. Radhanagar, Sebayatan, Maitipara, Barkala and Baita have already been wrested. On the other side, the party has moved till Pirkata. It just needs to cross Bhimpur and the Jhitka forest to enter Lalgarh. On the north-western fringe is the Goaltore block. Sushanta Ghosh’s men are stationed at Pingbani in Goaltore and advancing towards Ramgarh.

On 3 September, the CPM entered Palasi and drove out the menfolk. Dulal Mandal, who contested the 2008 panchayat election in Palasi on a TMC ticket, alleged that the operation was led by Anima Rout, the CPM leader who was paraded in the village with a garland of shoes last year. “We were not with the Maoists or the PCAPA. We just opposed the CPM. Now that they are back, we will not be able to return,” says Mandal.

His associates Tarani Dey, Prashanta Rout, Aloy Rout and Rajiv Patra echo the fear that their houses will be ransacked and the women will be tortured. “But we can do nothing. The CPM men are armed to the teeth. If we return, we will be killed straightaway,” says Dey, who has taken shelter in Jhargram town along with his mates from the village.

The Maoist stronghold is in the Jhitka forest adjacent to Lalgarh and in the forests of Bhulagera, Lakshmanpur, Ranja, Hatilot and Purnapani to the north of the Kangsabati river that flows across Lalgarh. If the CPM can prevent communication and logistics between these forests and Lalgarh, they would have done their job. And it has been able to do that successfully. Almost.

Around 80 percent of the villages in Goaltore, Salboni and Kotoali are now under CPM control. The residents of Bamal, Katapahari, Netai, Sijua, Jirakuli, Jirakuli, Jirapara, Gohmidanga, Tarki, Belatikri, Chandrapur, Amlia, Chhotopelia, Boropelia, Amokala and Lalgarh Bazar are ready to flee at short notice.

The CPM has worked out a three-tier strategy for the conquest of Lalgarh and Jangalmahal, party sources revealed

The CPM has worked out a three-tier strategy for the conquest of Jangalmahal and Lalgarh, party sources told TEHELKA. The first step is the political facade. Party cadres, sympathisers and workers of organisations close to the party are being mobilised to hold rallies in less-affected areas, to whip up sentiments against the Maoists and the PCAPA. It is important to remember that despite the reverses in the rest of the state in the 2009 Lok Sabha election, the CPM won the Jhargram seat by a margin of more than 2.5 lakh votes. Significantly, on 5 September, members of the DYFI took out a Left procession in Jhargram for the first time in 18 months.

THE NEXT tier is the buffer zone on the fringes of areas dominated by the PCAPA. These are again divided into Base Camps and Operational Headquarters. Harmad camps have been set up, housing cadres hired from the districts of 24 Parganas (North and South), Nadia and Murshidabad. Many of the cadres are veterans who took an active role in the battle for Nandigram. Then there is the core area or the war zone, where the Joint Forces are deployed, ostensibly to flush out the Maoists. The CPM has employed ‘guide Harmads’, whose job is to coordinate with the Base Camp and Operational HQ on one hand and the Joint Forces on the other. As the Joint Forces advance, the ‘guide Harmads’ will follow and sound out the nearby camps, so that their armed comrades can advance to the core area.

Even though the CPM claims there are no armed camps in Jangalmahal, Union Home Minister P Chidambaram officially admitted to their existence. However, he didn’t disclose their location. TEHELKA is in possession of sketch maps of such camps surrounding Lalgarh, drawn by a former CPM insider. The maps also show the specific numbers and locations of these camps.


Land ahoy CPM workers celebrate after retaking Dharampur block

On 5 September, trying to corroborate the anecdotes relayed by Mandal and his associates, there was a bizarre incident. The road from Binpur takes a right turn at Dahijuri towards the Basantapur ghat of the Kangsabati river. The stretch was heavily guarded by Joint Forces, who were scarce only a couple of days ago, when PCAPA secretary Manoj Mahato was arrested from a nearby area. The dry and sandy river has a makeshift footbridge. About a kilometre from the river were around 20-25 young men, apparently grazing cattle. As they were approached, four of them sprang to their feet brandishing automatic rifles. They pointed the guns at the temples of the two journalists and started frisking them. One of the men in sleeveless vest and khaki half-pant sternly ordered them to turn back. Another man was instructed to escort the two till the ghat. Amid the shock and disbelief, the only thing that could be noted was that none of these men were local tribals. They were in their 20s and looked different from the local folk. Their diction was also foreign to the place, sounding more like a south Bengal accent.

‘Many CPM men have infiltrated the PCAPA,’ says a doctor. ‘But it’s too early to say that the PCAPA is finished’
A COUPLE of days earlier, Harmads attacked a group of journalists in Buripal village, in Salbani, while tracking the CPM’s recapturing of Dharampur. They included Sandip Chattopadhyay and Sambit Pal of Times Now, Amitabha Rath, Arnab Mukhopadhyay and Sudip Guchhait of Star Ananda, and Pronab Mandal, principal correspondent of The Telegraph. The assault was led by Pirakata CPM Committee Secretary Madhusudan Mahato and local party leader Jagannath Mahato. Subsequently, three party workers were arrested, but the two leaders “could not be found”, said West Midnapore SPManoj Verma. On 3 September, Verma repeatedly denied the arrest of PCAPA’s Manoj Mahato, only to do a volte face the next day, when he claimed that the arrest was a “major success” for the police.

Lalgarh is unmistakably returning to the CPM fold. Stung by the heavy defeat in the 2009 Lok Sabha election, it is crucial for the CPM to recapture Jangalmahal, which has 41 Assembly seats. If the party can maintain status quo in the region, Mamata’s dreams of toppling the CPM in the 2011 Assembly election will face a roadblock. This is why Mamata held the Lalgarh rally and has deputed her Nandigram general Shubhendu Adhikary to lead the battle of Lalgarh. However, winning Lalgarh without the PCAPA’s support will remain a pipedream for Mamata.


Bleak future The worried parents of PCAPA secretary Manoj Mahato

But where did all the PCAPA men go? “The people of Jangalmahal are poor and lack education. You can buy them for 10. It is impossible for the state to have taken on the PCAPA without insider information. Many CPM men have infiltrated the PCAPA,” says a doctor based in Jhargram. “But it’s too early to say that the PCAPA is finished. New leadership might revive it.”

In the past week, Lalgarh has witnessed 25 murders. Some reports put the toll for the past two years at 500. With the CPM just days away from ‘recapturing’ Lalgarh and the Maoists not ready to give up on the ground, it is going to be a bloody war. This Durga Puja is going to see a fight between evil and evil.

NATO ‘friendly fire’ kills Afghan soldiers

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By Mohammad Yaqob

GHAZNI, Afghanistan – Police said Wednesday six Afghan soldiers were killed in a NATO air strike in Afghanistan, where the military announced the deaths of another three foreign soldiers fighting the Taliban.


Western military air strikes targeting the Taliban have mistakenly killed scores of Afghan civilians and security forces

Local police in troubled Ghazni province, in south-central Afghanistan, said NATO “friendly fire” on an army post killed six officers, in an incident that the US-led NATO force said it was investigating.

The air strike late Tuesday was originally aimed at Taliban militants, said Nawruz Ali Mohamoodzada, a provincial police official.

“It mistakenly hit an army post in which six soldiers were killed. An investigation has been launched,” he told AFP.

Western military air strikes targeting the Taliban have mistakenly killed scores of Afghan civilians and security forces, fanning opposition to foreign troops, sparking angry protests and remonstrations from the Afghan government.

A spokesman for the International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) said: “We are aware of an incident and we are getting information”.

About 140,000 international troops are fighting alongside Afghan forces to quell a Taliban-led insurgency into a ninth year and train Afghan counterparts to take over so that they can eventually leave.

The fiercest fighting is taking place in southern Afghanistan, heartland of the insurgency and the focus of a new US-led push to reverse Taliban momentum.

Reports emerged Wednesday that British troops, who make up the second largest contingent after those from the United States, are to withdraw from one of the deadliest battlefields in the south and hand control to the Americans.

British Defence Secretary Liam Fox was expected to announce later Wednesday that British forces will be pulled out of Sangin district in Helmand province, the BBC and newspapers reported.

US forces, who now outnumber the British in Helmand, will then take charge.

Of 312 British service personnel to have died in Afghanistan since the 2001 US-led invasion to unseat the Taliban regime, 99 were killed in the market town of Sangin and the surrounding area.

It has witnessed some of the fiercest fighting the British military has endured since World War II.

The area is particularly dangerous because it contains a patchwork of rival tribes and is a major centre for Afghanistan’s opium-growing trade.

Western military losses in Afghanistan are now at record levels.

NATO announced that three troops, whose nationalities were not given, died Tuesday in bomb attacks in the south.

The deaths bring to 339 the number of foreign soldiers to have died in the Afghan conflict this year, according to an AFP tally based on a count kept by the icasualties.org website.

In July alone, 17 foreign soldiers have died. June set the record for the war, now in its ninth year, with 102 deaths.

Strategic planners warned the summer “fighting season” would see a spike in deaths, as NATO and the US beef up deployments in an effort to speed an end to the war.

The arrival of General David Petraeus as commander of US and NATO forces in Afghanistan has focused attention on the rules of engagement, as many soldiers believe a principle of “courageous restraint” is leading to higher casualties.

Petraeus’s sacked predecessor US General Stanley McChrystal put restrictions on troops, including fewer night raids and air strikes, as well as combat rules, aimed at cutting civilian casualties.

In a restive region just south of Kabul, four Afghan police officers were killed by a bomb, the interior ministry said.

The officers were on patrol in a troubled part of Logar province when the bomb hit their vehicle Tuesday. The ministry blamed the attack on the Taliban.