Taliban governor among 14 killed in Afghanistan clashes

  • As Judge blocks Multiple Arkansas executions

At least 14 Taliban fighters, including the shadow governor of the northern Baghlan province, have been killed in heavy fighting with Afghan forces, officials said today.

Amir Gul Hussainkhil, the deputy provincial police chief, said Afghan security forces launched a large-scale attack on the insurgents the night before in the western part of the province, setting off five hours of intense fighting and killing Taliban shadow governor Mawlavi Lal Mohammad.

Hussainkhil said the dead also included a number of expert bomb makers. He says no government forces were killed.

The Taliban confirmed that the shadow governor was killed and said four other fighters died in the clashes.

Elsewhere in Afghanistan, a roadside bomb killed a district police chief and his driver in the southern Zabul province late yesterday, according to Gul Islam Sial, spokesman for the provincial governor. He said four police were wounded in the blast.

In the northern Takhar province, Taliban fighters killed a senior border police officer and wounded four police in an ambush early today, police spokesman Khalil Aseer said.

In the meantime, two court rulings dealt a blow to the US state of Arkansas in its attempt to put to death seven inmates within days.

The first, on Wednesday evening, halted the execution due the following day of Stacey Johnson so he could make fresh DNA claims to prove his innocence.

Moments later, a district judge blocked the use of one of the lethal injection drugs, halting all seven executions.

The pace of executions – originally eight in 11 days – has prompted criticism from rights’ groups.

Johnson was convicted of the murder of Carol Heath, who was beaten and had her throat slit in her flat in 1993.

Her two young children were at home at the time.

He was one of two inmates due to be put to death on Thursday, but the Arkansas Supreme Court granted his request for a stay.

Johnson will now have the chance to make his case in a lower court for further DNA testing.

The second ruling, by Pulaski County Circuit Judge Alice Gray, has wider impact because it affects all seven inmates.

She backed a lawsuit by drugs company McKesson, the supplier of the muscle relaxant vecuronium bromide.

The company argued that it had been sold to the prison system on the understanding it would be used solely for medical purposes.

Rights group Repreive lauded the county court’s ruling, saying Arkansas obtained the drug through deception.

It said this was the first time in US legal history that a private company had brought direct legal action to prevent the misuse of medicines in executions

In an email to the BBC, the Arkansas attorney general’s office said it would appeal against the ruling.

Like many US states, Arkansas has struggled to find the drugs it needs to carry out executions. Its last was in 2005.

The frenetic filing of lawsuits and appeals in Arkansas has a profound impact on those awaiting execution, on their families and on the relatives of their victims.

The widower of one victim told me that if he had been told from the beginning that his wife’s killer would be in prison for life without parole, he might have been able to move on. But, he said, to have the prospect of the man’s execution arise and disappear over the years means reliving the hurt of the murder itself, and that every stay of execution now feels like an insult to his wife.

On Monday, one man had what he thought was his last meal before execution, only to be told minutes before his death warrant expired that the US Supreme Court ruled his execution could not happen.

On Wednesday, two more were moved to the holding cells next to Arkansas execution chamber. Their death warrants have been issued for Thursday 20 and the state insists it will do everything in its power to have them put to death.

What this highlights is how hard it has become for states to kill by lethal injection, with botched executions and drug companies saying they do not want their products associated with the practice.

Zee with additional report from BBC