By RAHIM FAIEZ -- The Associated Press
KABUL, Afghanistan (AP) - Eight policemen were killed in an attack early Wednesday near a southern Afghan city, a police commander said, in an area that has been a pioneer in the handover of security from NATO to Afghan control.
Gen. Nabi Jan Mullahkhail, deputy regional commander in the south, said the deadly pre-dawn attack targeted a checkpoint near Lashkar Gah in the southern Helmand province, where the insurgency still has strongholds. Three policemen were also wounded in the attack.
Mullahkhail said a policeman who was manning the checkpoint has gone missing. Authorities are investigating whether he might have been involved in the attack.
A day earlier, a suicide bomber rammed an explosives-packed vehicle into a police truck in the same city, killing two civilians. The Taliban claimed responsibility for that attack.
Lashkar Gah was one of five provincial capitals chosen for the first-round transition of security from NATO to Afghan hands this summer. The process also included two provinces.
NATO hopes to use the security zone around Lashkar Gah and the central Helmand River Valley as a foothold to push Afghan governance into outlying areas as coalition forces plan to withdraw combat forces from the country by the end of 2014.
Also in Helmand province, Afghan and U.S.-led coalition troops destroyed drugs worth more than $350 million and three drug laboratories in what is believed to be Afghanistan's largest drug seizure this past decade, NATO said Wednesday.
The money from the drugs was believed to be bankrolling attacks on Afghan and coalition forces.
Acting on intelligence, the troops targeted an area in Helmand's Baghran district on Monday that was suspected of being a manufacturing site for drugs and destroyed more than 26,000 pounds (12,065 kilograms) of chemicals used to make drugs, 220 pounds (100 kilograms) of heroin and 176 pounds (80 kilograms) of opium. Afghanistan produces about 90 percent of the world's opium.
Separately, a New Zealand special forces soldier was shot in the head and killed during a gunbattle with suspected insurgents in a compound near Afghanistan's capital.
Lt. Gen. Rhys Jones, the chief of New Zealand's defense force, said the soldier was part of a team of 15 supporting about 50 Afghan police trying to serve arrest and search warrants to a group suspected of planning an attack in Kabul.
Jones said a man and a child in the compound were wounded during the battle, which continued for hours.
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