KABUL: Taliban insurgents poisoned and then shot to death 17 people in an overnight attack on a government-backed militia post in eastern Afghanistan, an Afghan official said Wednesday.
The militants somehow poisoned those inside the outpost, incapacitating them, before gunning them down Tuesday night, said Abdul Jamhe Jamhe, a leader of the Ghazni provincial government.
The method of poisoning was unclear, he added.
The dead included 10 members of the government-backed Afghan local police, and seven of their civilian friends, said Provincial Gov. Musa Khan Akbarzada. He says there was a conspiracy of some sort but declined to confirm if poison was involved.
The lightly trained Afghan Local Police, a village-level force backed by US troops and overseen by the Ministry of the Interior, is tasked with helping bring security to remote areas. But Afghan President Hamid Karzai has expressed concern that without careful vetting, the program could end up arming local troublemakers, strongmen or criminals.
Taliban spokesman Zabiullah Mujahid claimed responsibility for the attack.
He told news agency the Associated Press by telephone that the attackers shot the men dead in their sleep but that no poison was involved.
Mujahid also claimed responsibility for a bombing in Kabul earlier in the day that wounded up to ten people.
The attacks come three days after a would-be car bomber was shot dead by police in downtown Kabul. That assailant was driving a vehicle packed with explosives and officials said he appeared to be targeting an intelligence agency office.
It also comes as the US-led military coalition in the country is backing off from its claim that Taliban attacks dropped in 2012, tacitly acknowledging a hole in its widely repeated argument that violence is easing and that the insurgency is in steep decline.