21 Killed in Afghanistan Attacks Directed at Provincial GovernorBy CARLOTTA GALL
Twenty-one people, including two senior Defense Ministry commanders, were killed in heavy factional fighting overnight in the western province of Herat, in another upset for Afghanistan as it prepares for elections, Afghan officials said Saturday.
In what appeared to be coordinated attacks, forces from three neighboring provinces moved on districts in Herat Province, the fief of the powerful warlord Ismail Khan.
Fighting involving artillery and tanks was continuing on Saturday afternoon south of the city of Herat, around Shindand, said Mohammadullah Afzali, the Foreign Ministry representative in Herat.
Both sides confirmed that 21 people had been killed.
The attacks drew a swift rebuke from President Hamid Karzai, who, after a meeting of his national security council, issued a statement condemning the incursions and calling for those responsible to withdraw from the areas they had seized. The attacks were illegal and a threat to public security, it said.
''Any action that jeopardizes public security and threatens people's lives will not be tolerated and no one will be allowed to get away with committing such crimes,'' the statement said.
The council clearly took the side of Herat's governor, saying his forces had the right to defend the integrity of the province, said the Defense Ministry spokesman, Gen. Abdul Zaher Azimi.
Mr. Khan has been much criticized in the past by the central government for not respecting central authority, in particular in March, when fighting broke out in the city of Herat after Mr. Khan's son, Mirwais Saddiq, the minister for civil aviation, was killed.
The men who have moved against Mr. Khan are known opponents of the governor who have criticized him in the past for interfering in their areas of control.
South of Herat city, the commander Amanullah Khan seized control of the air base at Shindand and the nearby district center overnight, and his forces were still in control of them on Saturday.
In interviews with local journalists, the commander said there had been a local uprising against Ismail Khan by people opposed to his rule.
In the east, forces under a commander called Abdul Salam overran two villages in the Chesht District, Mr. Afzali said. They retained control of one village but had failed to take the district center, he said.
To the northeast, the commander Zaher Naibzada, whose men killed Mr. Khan's son in March, also recently moved against Mr. Khan's forces, according to local reports.
Mr. Khan sent reinforcements from the garrison in Herat city to Shindand, after two of his senior commanders were killed, along with eight others, and four were wounded.
A battalion of the newly trained Afghan National Army is based in Herat and was on alert but for now remained in their barracks, General Azimi said.