Afghan security forces have been deployed to quell rioting in the northwestern province of Badghis after a deadly gun battle between a local police recruit and his Spanish instructors.
The Spanish government has confirmed that two Spanish police officers and their Spanish interpreter were killed when a rogue police recruit opened fire on them at a provincial-reconstruction team (PRT) police training center in Badghis's provincial capital of Qalay-e Naw.
Abdul Ghani Saberi, the deputy governor of Badghis Province, told RFE/RL's Radio Free Afghanistan that the rioting broke out after Spanish troops shot dead the Afghan trainee during the altercation.
Saberi said the police "usually train inside the Spanish PRT. One police driver, whose name was Ghullam Sakhi, carried a gun with him into the compound." After arguing with Spanish troops who told him not to bring a gun inside the compound, "he started shooting at the Spanish soldiers -- killing three of them."
Saberi said provincial authorities think the recruit might have had ties with the Taliban and intentionally tried to carry a gun into the PRT compound to attack troops in the NATO-led International Security Assistance Force.
Saberi said the authorities suspect Taliban militants who are active in the area may have infiltrated the police force to carry out the initial attack.
"We think there was a plot behind this incident," Saberi said. "We think the Taliban could be behind this because they are the enemies of the Afghan country and such plots are usually organized by the enemies of stability and peace in Afghanistan."
Riot At Compound, Provincial Headquarters
RFE/RL's correspondent in the area, Sharafuddin Stanakzai, reported that angry demonstrators tried to storm the PRT compound after the initial shooting incident.
He said that demonstrators on the scene said they broke through the compound's outer perimeter and set fire to part of the base.
One witness told RFE/RL that Spanish troops fired on rioters who were storming the base, injuring several of them.
However, the Spanish government denied that demonstrators tried to storm the base. Spanish officials said the demonstrators wanted the body of the slain Afghan and that an Afghan judge was allowed to enter the PRT compound in order to authorize the handover of the remains.
There was no immediate confirmation by Afghan or NATO officials about witness claims that the PRT base was infiltrated or that there were more casualties there.
However, Saberi confirmed that hundreds of demonstrators later marched on the provincial government's headquarters in Qalay-e Naw -- smashing several windows of the building and forcing local authorities to call for the deployment of troops from the Afghan National Army and national police.
Abdullah Kheradmand Durani, head of the central government's film department in Badghis Province, spoke to RFE/RL from outside the government building early in the afternoon on August 25 as the demonstrators surrounded it.
"People are gathered at the government building and I am standing among them. They have just arrived at the governor's office. They've broken the windows," Durani said.
"The governor is not inside. It looks now like the government is unable to control these people."
However, Saberi later told RFE/RL that police and army troops were in control of the situation at the provincial administration building.
Recruits Turning On Teachers
The shooting incident that ignited the demonstrations is the latest in a series of attacks by Afghan police recruits. There have been several other recent deadly attacks by police recruits against their foreign trainers in Afghanistan.
Today's violence has raised concerns about the possible infiltration of Afghan security forces by militants as the government in Kabul tries to bolster the size of its own security forces and phase out the use of private security contractors in the country.
NATO officials say Afghanistan will need to recruit 141,000 new soldiers and police officers in the next year to meet the security needs of the country and replace U.S. and NATO-led forces who plan to start leaving Afghanistan in mid 2011.
written by Ron Synovitz in Prague, with contribution from RFE/RL's Radio Free Afghanistan correspondents Sharafuddin Stanakzai in Herat and Mustafa Sarwar and Omid Marzban in Prague