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Insider attack kills 9 Afghan militia, officials say

KABUL, Afghanistan — At least one member of an Afghan militia opened fire on his fellow militiamen early Saturday, killing nine, in what the country’s interior ministry called an insider attack, an Afghan official said.

The Taliban, however, claimed the attack was actually a coordinated insurgent assault on the checkpoint where the shooting took place, killing over two dozen militiamen, according to Taliban spokesman Zabihullah Mujahid.

There was no immediate explanation for the discrepancy, but the Taliban often exaggerate their claims.

Details were sketchy and investigators were still looking into the attack in central Ghazni province’s Karabagh district, said Defense Ministry spokesman Fawad Aman. The number of attackers was also not immediately clear.

Afghan militias operate in remote regions and are under the command of the country’s National Security Forces, which suffers near daily Taliban attacks.

The Taliban now control or hold sway over half the country.

Insider attacks have been steady throughout the 18-year conflict, with U.S. and NATO troops most often targeted. But when Afghan security forces are targeted, the casualty rate is often much higher.

In July, two U.S. service members were killed by an Afghan soldier in the southern Kandahar province. The shooter was wounded and arrested. In September, three U.S. military personnel were wounded when an member of the Afghan Civil Order Police fired on a military convoy, also in Kandahar.

Last Saturday, U.S. peace envoy Zalmay Khalilzad began several days of meetings with Taliban representatives in Qatar, where the insurgents maintain a political office.

It was his first such direct contact between the envoy and the militant group since President Donald Trump halted negotiations three months ago after a particularly deadly wave of Taliban attacks, including a Kabul suicide bombing that killed an American soldier.

In a separate incident, shots were fired at a convoy of vehicles that included Afghanistan’s Chief Executive Abdullah Abdullah, said spokesman Mujib Rahimi. The firing occurred near Pul-e-Kumri, the capital of northern Baghlan Province. No arrests have been made and no one has admitted to the shooting.

Abdullah is also one of the leading candidates in controversial presidential polls held Sept. 28. His nearest rival — and his partner in Afghanistan’s divided Unity Government — is President Ashraf Ghani.

Nearly three months after the vote there are still no results because of bickering over recounts and which votes should be counted and which should be determined spoiled. If no candidate gets a majority, a runoff will be held between the two top contenders. which are Ghani and Abdullah.