Afghan government delegation heads north to defuse tension with regional leader

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Fri, 2019-03-15 23:04

KABUL: An Afghan government delegation visited the northern city of Mazar-i-Sharif on Friday to defuse tensions following violent incidents a day earlier.

The clashes erupted on Thursday between the police deployed by Kabul and officers loyal to a regional leader, Atta Mohammad Noor, who blocked the appointment of Abdul Raqib Mubarez, the new police chief chosen by President Ashraf Ghan to replace Noor’s loyalist, Akram Same.

At least one policeman was killed and 18 people, many of them officers, were wounded.

Normalcy had returned to most parts of the city on Friday, but there were reports of tensions building up in the outskirts, residents said.

On Friday, the Defense Ministry in Kabul said Defense Minister Assadullah Khalid and Interior Minister Masood Andarabi had spoken to Atta. 

The ministry and officials close to Atta did not disclose details of the meeting.

Both said the trip was aimed at preventing further violence in the city, which serves as a gateway to Central Asia and has been among the handful of secure cities of the country.

Speaking to reporters, Mubarez said that the problem had been resolved, and he reassured the public in Mazar about the situation of the city.

“The problem has been resolved, there is no worry … no security challenge.”

On Wednesday night, Noor had called for a complete shutdown of the city and most avenues and business were shut on Thursday.

Noor said the replacement of his choice of police chief broke a deal with Ghani. He called it a political move to weaken his main rival in the presidential elections.
 
He called for the formation of an interim government after Ghani’s term ends in a few months’ time, even as the US continues to hold peace talks with the Taliban to resolve a decades-old conflict plaguing the country.

Noor belongs to the camp of Haneef Atmar — Ghani’s arch rival for the upcoming presidential elections in July — and was one among dozens of politicians who met the Taliban’s representatives in Moscow a few months ago.
 
Atmar has also called the government move to replace the police chief a “political and irrational act.”

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