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Afghan police say insurgents enter southern police station, firefight ongoing

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KANDAHAR, Afghanistan — Insurgents armed with guns and explosives entered a police station in Afghanistan's southern city of Lashkar Gar on Sunday after a suicide bomber detonated explosives at the gate of the compound allowing the others to gain entry, a senior policeman said.

Nabi Jan Malakhail, the police chief of Helmand province, said at least two insurgents were inside the police station, fighting with police who had the building surrounded.

"They haven't been able to escape," he said. Two policemen and one civilian had been wounded in the firefight, he said.

Helmand province is a stronghold of the Taliban, who have been fighting the Kabul government for more than a decade. The group controls much of the poppy crop that is grown in the province and is the source of most of the world's heroin.

For more than two months, Afghan security forces have been fighting to dislodge the insurgents from Helmand, ahead of the warmer weather when the Taliban send seasoned fighters across the mountainous border from Pakistan for what it calls its "summer offensive." So far, the group has not declared the beginning of the fighting season, but recent attacks indicate that the annual offensive has begun.

On Saturday, a suicide bomber on an explosives-laden motorbike blew himself up outside a bank in the eastern city of Jalalabad, killing at least 35 people and wounding around 125, authorities said. The attack bore the hallmarks of the Taliban, who have long been active in Nangarhar province, where Jalalabad is the capital. President Ashraf Ghani, however, attributed the attack to the Islamic State group, though he did not reveal the source of his information.

PHOTO: Chairperson of the Afghan Independent Human Rights Commission Sima Samar, center, U.N. Assistant Secretary-General for Human Rights, Ivan Simonovic, left, and Special Representative of the U.N. Secretary General for Afghanistan Nicholas Haysom give a press conference in Kabul, Afghanistan, Sunday, April 19, 2015. A U.N. report released Sunday said Afghanistan’s women are being failed by the country’s justice system as most complaints of domestic violence are dealt with by mediation rather than prosecution. (AP Photo/Allauddin Khan)
Chairperson of the Afghan Independent Human Rights Commission Sima Samar, center, U.N. Assistant Secretary-General for Human Rights, Ivan Simonovic, left, and Special Representative of the U.N. Secretary General for Afghanistan Nicholas Haysom give a press conference in Kabul, Afghanistan, Sunday, April 19, 2015. A U.N. report released Sunday said Afghanistan’s women are being failed by the country’s justice system as most complaints of domestic violence are dealt with by mediation rather than prosecution. (AP Photo/Allauddin Khan)

A security official in the eastern province of Paktia said Sunday that at least a dozen Afghan mine clearers had been kidnapped by unknown gunmen.

Gen. Zelmai Oryakhail, the provincial police chief, said the mine clearers had been working in the area for weeks without incident or difficulty. They did not want police or army protection, he said, preferring to have local villagers provide security.

Also on Sunday, the United Nations said that Afghanistan's women were being failed by the country's justice system as most complaints of domestic violence were dealt with through mediation rather than prosecution.

In a new report, it said that only 5 percent of surveyed domestic violence cases were resolved through the judicial system, resulting in criminal prosecution and punishment for perpetrators.

The U.N.'s Assistant Secretary General for Human Rights, Ivan Simonovic, said women often choose mediation to resolve complaints of violence, partly because they lack faith in the justice system.

"The interviews with women and girls subjected to violence revealed that negative perceptions of the justice system as slow, corrupt and distant continued to discourage women from pursuing criminal prosecution of the perpetrators," Simonovic said. He added that access to justice for women who suffer violence needs to be improved.

Afghanistan is regularly named as one of the worst places in the world to be a woman. Constitutional guarantees of equal rights and protection from violence are rarely applied in practice.

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PHOTO: U.N. Assistant Secretary-General for Human Rights, Ivan Simonovic, speaks during a press conference in Kabul, Afghanistan, Sunday, April 19, 2015. A U.N. report released Sunday said Afghanistan’s women are being failed by the country’s justice system as most complaints of domestic violence are dealt with by mediation rather than prosecution. (AP Photo/Allauddin Khan)
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