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Taliban strike on police in week of clashes

Kabul, Aug. 19 (Reuters): Taliban guerrillas have killed 10 policemen, including a provincial police chief, taking the death toll to more than 90 in one of Afghanistan’s bloodiest weeks since US-led forces overthrew their strict Islamic regime in 2001.

Abdul Khaliq, police chief of Logar province, and several other senior police officers from the province south of Kabul were among those killed in an ambush yesterday, Logar’s military commander Fazlullah Mojadidi said.

He added that the police chief had been returning from a funeral for two family members of a police officer who were killed in a rocket attack blamed on the Taliban. “They were in their cars when the incident happened,” Mojadidi said. “There is no doubt that the Taliban were behind it.”

News of the attack came after police said two Afghans working for British aid agency Save the Children Fund were wounded in a Taliban attack west of the northern town of Mazar-i-Sharif on Sunday, the second such incident there in two weeks.

And early today a group of about 20 armed men raided a base of an Afghan mine clearance agency 35 km southwest of Kabul, beat up some of its staff and stole an ambulance which they later set fire to.

Patrick Fruchet, external relations officer for the Mine Action Centre, said it was unclear who was responsible.

The violence has increased doubts about the ability of the US-backed government to hold elections on schedule next June.

The bloodshed comes just after Nato took command of 5,000 foreign peacekeepers in Kabul on August 11 and prompted fresh calls for the force’s role to be extended into the provinces, where a 12,500-strong US-led coalition has been hunting remnants of the Taliban and their al Qaida allies.

It also comes ahead of a visit to Kabul on Thursday by Mian Khursheed Mehmood Kasuri, foreign minister of Pakistan. Pakistan is an ally in the US-led “war on terror” but Afghan officials say Islamabad has been allowing an increasingly bold Taliban movement to regroup from its territory.

In a scare in the volatile southern city of Kandahar, two soldiers were injured, one seriously, in an explosion while shifting munitions at the house of Ahmad Wali Karzai, brother of US-backed President Hamid Karzai. But a local government spokesman said the incident was an accident, and the president’s brother was not hurt.

Bases of the US-led coalition came under attack again yesterday and today, but no casualties were reported. Coalition bases have come under frequent rocket attack since the Taliban fell but the missiles generally miss their targets. However, at least 65 people were killed last Tuesday and Wednesday in incidents nationwide, including a bomb on a bus, a factional clash, fighting between government and Taliban guerrillas in the southeast and an ambush on a local aid group.

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