Suspected Taliban rebels ambushed a police convoy in southern Afghanistan, killing 19 officers, the deadliest attack ever on the fledgling police force, officials said Tuesday. The convoy of 150 police was attacked late Monday while driving on a dirt road along the side of a mountain in Helmand province, said Interior Ministry spokesman Yusuf Stanikzai.
Dozens of insurgents opened fire on the convoy, sparking a gunbattle that lasted until early Tuesday before the militants fled into the mountains, he said.
Among the 19 dead was Helmand's deputy police chief, Stanikzai said. Four police officers were wounded. Four police vehicles were destroyed.
Security forces rushed reinforcements into the area and have secured the region, the spokesman said.
Another Interior Ministry official, Dad Mohammed Rasa, said the attack was "the deadliest ever on the police," which was set up soon after U.S.-led forces ousted the Taliban from power for harboring Osama bin Laden in 2001.
The attack comes amid a major resurgence in violence by Taliban-led rebels that has left about 1,400 people dead in the past half year and raised fears for this country's fragile democracy, reports the AP. I.L.