Kabul, March 14 (IANS): Afghanistan's northern city of Mazar-e-Sharif observed a shutdown on Thursday as armed supporters of a powerful former Governor clashed with government forces over the appointment of a new provincial police chief.
The central government cleared the appointment of Abdul Raqib Mubariz as the new police chief of Balkh, replacing Gen. Akram Sammeh, amid worsening security situation in the northern province, Efe news reported.
"In order to improve the security situation of Balkh, it was decided to bring change in police leadership," the Interior Ministry said in a statement.
But the decision was objected by former Governor and powerful warlord Atta Muhammad Noor, who is also Chief Executive of the Jamiat-e-Islami political party, and holds great sway in Balkh province.
Mazar-e-Sharif is the provincial capital of Balkh.
"I call upon on all residents of Mazar-e-Sharif to stay indoors. Shops and markets must be kept shut until further notice," Noor said in a statement on social media.
He alleged that the Presidential Place in Kabul had plotted against him and "brought the war to Mazar-e-Sharif", indicating that there is an all-out war between him and Afghan President Ashraf Ghani.
"Now that they raided our people, we are ready for every kind of sacrifices to defend the lives and properties of our people," Noor said, referring to the appointment of the new police chief, who arrived in the city, accompanied by special police forces.
As Mubariz tried to enter inside the police headquarters, Noor's supporters blocked him and attacked his security forces with arms.
Interior Ministry spokesperson Nasrat Rahimi said that one policeman was injured in the clash. He added the police arrested 25 people before the new police chief and his personnel entered the headquarters.
Rahimi said special police forces were deployed across the city as a precautionary measure.
Saleh Muradi, a provincial council member, said that the situation remained tense as all shops and offices were closed. He said gunshots were heard around the police headquarters.