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    Local police force accused of felling trees

    PUL-I-KHUMRI (PAN): Residents of northeastern Baghlan province have accused the local police force of illegally felling their trees for sale and using them as fuel.

    The force was established in the province less than a year ago. Initially, the force collected usher from residents, but now it has started cutting their trees.

    "Local police are stationed here without any permission from residents," said Mohammad Aslam Wardak, a tribal elder from the Dand Ghori area of Pul-i-Khumri, the provincial capital.

    He assaulted the policemen for intimidating people, felling their plants and seeking revenge on their opponents. The elder said the government had not taken them into confidence ahead of creating the force.

    Mohammad Juma, from the Shahabuldin village, claimed the policemen cut 200 of his trees and took them to their homes. "I have reported the matter to police time and again, but so far no action has been taken."

    Haji Afzal, an elder from the Dehna Ghori area, said the local police made money by cutting people's trees and selling them.

    A provincial official confirmed the problems being faced by residents at the hands of local force. A crime branch police officer, who requested not to be named, said local police were involved in cutting trees. However, he said they were unable to prevent them.

    Baghlan's deputy police chief, Sayed Zaman Hussaini, said they were looking into public complaints. He added the offenders would be punished in accordance with the relevant law.

    Police spokesman Javed Basharat expressed his unawareness about the involvement of the local police in illegally chopping trees. He said a training programme for the force members had been arranged.

    A spokesman for NATO-led forces in Baghlan said the local police did not abide rules and regulations and were thus adding to their concerns. He said most of local police officials were dressed like Taliban and could not be recognised.