The Taliban have infiltrated a strategic district in southeastern Afghanistan and fought with members of the Shia Hazara minority, officials said yesterday, a week after militants and a Shia militia clashed in a central province.
Insurgents raided the Jaghori district in Ghazni province on Wednesday, aiming to regain control of a Shia-dominated region that allows women to move freely and encourages higher female participation in government.
The attacks on Jaghori by the Taliban, a militant group made up mainly of ethnic Pashtun Sunni Muslims, have heightened fears of a new surge of sectarian violence in Afghanistan.
The violence has also highlighted concerns that Hazaras, members of a mainly Shia minority, may take up arms in frustration at a lack action by the central government.
Abdul Qayum Sajjadi, a lawmaker in Ghazni province, said President Ashraf Ghani's Western-backed government was negligent.
"I repeatedly urged the central government to send backup forces to Jaghori, but security departments were slow in sending reinforcements. The residents are forced to fight the battle," he said yesterday.
A senior interior ministry official said at least six policemen were killed and dozens of civilians and militia members were wounded in clashes with the Taliban that began on Wednesday.