36 killed in Afghan violence

HERAT: New attacks linked to a spreading Taliban-led insurgency killed around three dozen people including seven civilians and seven policemen over the weekend, authorities said on Sunday.

In the deadliest incident, Islamist fighters attacked a district headquarters in the southwestern province of Farah on Saturday, deputy provincial police chief Mohammad Naeem Popal told AFP.

"Five policemen were martyred and eight Taliban were killed," he said, adding that an unknown number of the militants were also wounded in the fighting.

Militants also ambushed a convoy of police, the Afghan army and International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) personnel in the same province on Saturday, an army spokesman said.

"Two policemen and six Taliban were killed in the firefight after the attack and nine Taliban were wounded," said the spokesman, Abdul Basir Ghori.

In southeastern Ghazni province, a vehicle carrying shopkeepers returning to their district on Saturday after purchasing goods hit a roadside bomb, a local official said.

Five people, including the driver, were killed, said Muhammad Yousuf Siraji, adding security forces had been the intended target.

In Andar on Sunday, Taliban attacked a logistics convoy and killed an Afghan guard, provincial spokesman Ismail Jehangir said.

He also reported that a teacher had been murdered in the province on Saturday but it was not clear by whom. The education ministry said the attack was by the "enemies of education," a reference to insurgents.

Also Sunday, a suicide attack on police near the eastern town of Jalalabad killed an eight-year-old child, provincial government spokesman Ahmad Zia Abdulzai said.

Five more civilians and four police were wounded, he said.

In Helmand province in the south, police late Saturday swooped on a group believed to be behind the killing of eight policemen two nights ago and killed five of them, provincial police said.

ISAF announced that it had called in airstrikes on the mountain hideout of a insurgent commander in the eastern province of Khost on Saturday.

"Coalition forces observed and identified suspected militants gathering at this location and called for precision air strikes to eliminate the target," it said in a statement that did not say how many insurgents were killed.

The Taliban have been able to regroup after being removed from government in late 2001 and are fighting a rising insurgency, also setting up their own political structures in all provinces of the country.

Deputy interior minister Munir Mohammad Mangal told reporters in Kabul Sunday that 49 civilians were killed and 122 wounded in insurgent violence across the country in the past week.

Eighteen policemen and 84 militants were also killed, he said. Another 63 suspected insurgents were arrested, the minister said.

The rebels had also planted at least 88 roadside bombs in the past week of which 42 have exploded, he said.

Afghan security forces, helped by nearly 90,000 international troops, have intensified efforts to push back the rebels from their strongholds with a view to securing the presidential polls scheduled for August 20.