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Afghan police ordered to shoot criminals

Afghan police have been instructed to shoot armed criminals on sight [AFP]

Date of publication: 12 October, 2020

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Afghanistan's interior minister issued Kabul police with a shoot-to-kill order in a bid to control any escalation in violent crime as US forces withdraw from the country
Afghan authorities have for the first time instructed Kabul's police force to fatally shoot armed criminals on sight, a sharp escalation in tactics aimed at stemming a surge in kidnappings, murders and other violent crimes.

Already stretched to breaking point after years of Taliban and jihadist attacks, the capital's police are now grappling with a crime wave that is only expected to worsen as US and foreign forces pull out of Afghanistan

Officers had until now only been allowed to fire their weapons when in a direct clash with criminals, but interior minister Massoud Andarabi late Sunday shifted to a shoot-to-kill order in a bid to control the escalation, his spokesman said.

"(Andarabi) said criminals should not roam freely in Kabul city, hit them and kill them," Tariq Arian said. 

Even low-level criminals and thieves in Kabul are often armed with guns or knives.

"Crime has really risen in Kabul these days. Our neighbourhood was safe but now almost every day and night, people get robbed, killed and kidnapped," said Shafi, a shopkeeper in Kabul.

The Taliban, who are believed to have cells in sympathetic neighbourhoods, also vowed to "step up patrols".

Aside from crime and a booming drugs trade, Afghan police respond to frequent attacks against government officials, peace activists and academics.

Read also: How looming US elections could derail fragile Afghan peace talks

Officials accuse Taliban-linked groups of carrying out the assaults, even though the hardline group pledged not to attack urban areas under a February deal with the United States.

Washington has since begun a rapid drawdown of troops, further exposing the undertrained and underfunded police service. 

The government remains locked in peace talks with the Taliban, who continue to use violence as leverage in the negotiations.

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