Militants kill 18 Afghan police

At least 18 Afghan police officers have been killed and 13 wounded in a Taliban ambush in northern Badakhshan province, the interior ministry says.

The police were in Wardooj district and on their way back to the provincial capital after an anti-insurgent operation when they came under attack.

Although the mountainous north-east is relatively peaceful, Wardooj district has become increasingly volatile.

The Taliban said that they had carried out the attack.

In a statement they said that they had taken weapons and vehicles in the attack, and had handed over some of the bodies to tribal elders.

The statement also said 47 insurgents had been killed in police operations in the same region this week.

The interior ministry has ordered an investigation into the death of the police officers.

Difficult terrain

In March, 16 soldiers were killed in a Taliban ambush in Wardooj district, while in August 2010, British doctor Karen Woo was killed in an ambush in Badakhshan province, along with six Americans, one German and two Afghan translators.

Badakhshan is situated in the Pamir and Hindu Kush mountain ranges.

The BBC’s Bilal Sarwary in Kabul says the area’s difficult terrain offers perfect cover for insurgents.

Foreign combat forces are set to withdraw from Afghanistan in 2014 and many fear this could see the Taliban and their supporters gaining strength.

Nato troops have gradually been handing over responsibility for security to their Afghan counterparts, who now lead about 90% of all security operations.