NATO soldier among 35 killed in violence
"At least 35 people, including 17 civilians and a NATO-led soldier, were killed on Tuesday in the latest violence to strike insurgency-hit Afghanistan," officials said.
"In a single incident, 17 civilian roadworkers were killed and almost as many others were injured when Taliban rebels attacked them in the southern province of Zabul, the country's interior ministry said.
"The enemies attacked civilian roadworkers in Zabul this morning. Seventeen civilian roadworkers were martyred and 16 others were injured," ministry spokesman Zemarai Bashary told AFP.
In a subsequent counter-attack by Afghan and foreign security forces, seven militants were killed and a dozen more were wounded, the spokesman said, adding that six vehicles belonging to the roadworkers were also destroyed.
"After the incident, the (Afghan) national army, police and international forces went to the area and chased the enemies away, killing seven enemies and wounding 12 others," Bashary said.
Officials refer to the Taliban militants and other Islamic militants as enemies.
The troops were searching for the remaining attackers through the evening, he added.
The Taliban claimed responsibility for the attack."We carried out the attack," Yousouf Ahmadi, a Taliban spokesman, told AFP by telephone.
The incident was the latest in a string of attacks by Taliban-led insurgents who have targeted civilians working with the government and international troops as part of their insurgency.
"Meanwhile, a NATO-led soldier was killed and another was injured on Tuesday in an explosion in neighbouring Ghazni province," the force said. Two Polish soldiers with NATO were wounded in a similar incident in Ghazni on Monday.
With the latest casualty, 38 foreign soldiers have died in Afghanistan this year. Most have been killed in violence.
"In a separate incident linked to the insurgency, two policemen were killed when their post was attacked by rebels before dawn in Shindand district, a troubled region in the western province of Herat," a police spokesman said.
Afghanistan's under-resourced police force, which is being rebuilt by an internationally-funded effort, is seen as an easy target by Taliban militants.
More than 1,000 police officers were killed in attacks last year, the deadliest in the insurgency, which the Taliban launched after their ouster in a US-led invasion in late 2001.
"Also in Shindand, eight tribal militia were killed after battling each other over tribal disputes," police spokesman for western Afghanistan, Abdul Rauf Ahmadi, told AFP.
"Police and army forces were sent to the area to calm the violence," he added.
The Taliban began stepping up their insurgency last year.
More than 8,000 people, most of them Taliban-led rebels, were killed in the violence last year, according to a United Nations report. About 1,500 civilians were also slain in the violence over the same period.
More than 70,000 international, mainly Western troops, are stationed in Afghanistan to fight the insurgency and help the government expand its influence to the countryside.