The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Taliban boost to clashes in Afghanistan

Spin Boldak (Afghanistan), Sept. 2 (Reuters): Afghanistan’s Taliban has sent 300 more fighters to the southern province of Zabul to help comrades battling Afghan government and US-led troops, a commander from the ousted militia said today.

Maulvi Faizullah, a senior Taliban commander involved in fighting in Zabul, said the fresh wave of militants had been deployed in Dai Chopan district to join up to 1,000 others who have been fighting in the area for the last eight days.

The reinforcements were being led by former Taliban education minister Amir Khan Muttaqi, Faizullah said.

They had been sent from Khost province in the east bordering Pakistan, he said.

Zabul provincial intelligence chief Khalil Hotak said Afghan government forces backed by US-led troops were searching in the Koh Larzab area of Dai Chopan, where he said Taliban militants were believed to be hiding in caves.

There were no air attacks from U.S. and allied jet fighters and helicopter gunships so far on Tuesday and no direct contact with the Taliban fighters, he said.

The Taliban has declared a“jihad”, or holy war against foreign forces, aid organisations and their allies.

The battle in Zabul helped make August the bloodiest month since the Taliban was toppled from power by U.S. air power and Afghan ground forces in late 2001.

Afghan officials and commanders say more than 90 Taliban fighters have been killed, most of them in air raids, while the Taliban say its losses are far lower. The U.S. military has reported at least 37 Taliban losses in the Zabul fighting.

A U.S. embassy spokesman in Kabul said resurfacing work on the highway from Kabul to the southern city of Kandahar was continuing despite deadly attacks along the road.

Early on Monday four policemen were killed, four were wounded and four missing after a raid on their checkpoint 180 km (115 miles) northeast of Kandahar in Zabul province.

Indian contractors working for U.S. company Louis Berger Group Inc came under small-arms fire in a guest house nearby.

In a separate attack, two of the company's security guards were killed when assailants opened fire on their vehicle.

Two more attacks were carried out late on Sunday or early on Monday in Zabul and the neighbouring Uruzgan province, taking to 11 the number of people killed in the area.

The highway is the largest reconstruction project in Afghanistan since the fall of the Taliban in late 2001, and its progress is seen as a barometer of the success or otherwise of the U.S.-backed central government in stabilising the country.

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