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Suspected Taliban attack police station
( 2003-08-18 15:36) (Agencies)

Just hours after a deadly raid on a police station that left 22 people dead, suspected Taliban attacked another police compound in southeast Afghanistan, setting it ablaze and taking four policemen hostage, officials said Monday.

The latest attack took place Sunday night at Tarway, a village in Paktika province a few miles from the Pakistan border, provincial police chief Daulat Khan said.

"There were several hundred of them," Khan said of the assailants. "They set the police station on fire, took four of our men and fled to Pakistan."

It was not possible to independently confirm the details of the attack. Other policemen who were in the police station in Tarway fled the scene and the remoteness of the area made it impossible to contact authorities.

Nadir Khan Zadran, another police chief in the area, said three corpses were found in nearby fields, but it was not known who they were or how they died.

Zadran said the attackers he estimated there were 200 were members of the former Taliban regime, ousted in a U.S.-led war in 2001.

It was unclear if they were the same group that carried out a similar assault earlier Sunday at Barmal, much farther to the north, but also in Paktika province.

The violence in Paktika province is the latest in a wave of attacks in the region that have underscored how unstable Afghanistan remains, despite the presence of 11,500 coalition troops deployed in the country to hunt the guerrillas down.

In the attack at Barmal, hundreds of insurgents in a convoy of trucks assaulted a police headquarters, triggering a gunbattle that left seven police and 15 attackers dead, officials said. It was one of the largest shows of anti-government force in over a year.

The assault began shortly before midnight Saturday. The guerrillas, reportedly numbering several hundred and equipped with rockets, heavy machine guns and grenades, overwhelmed the police headquarters and held it until dawn, when they destroyed the building, got back in their vehicles and fled to Pakistan, five miles away, according to provincial Gov. Mohammed Ali Jalali.

Anti-government forces usually move around in small groups and on foot. Previous attacks have rarely involved more than 80 guerrilla fighters.

Jalali said the insurgents responsible for attack at Barmal included Taliban and fighters loyal to Gulbuddin Hekmatyar, a former prime minister who heads Hezb-e-Islami, a faction that has called for attacks against foreigners in Afghanistan. He also blamed Pakistan's intelligence service for playing a role in organizing the assault.

The ongoing violence has angered officials in President Hamid Karzai's administration, who say Pakistan is not doing enough to police its side of the border. Thousands of Pakistani soldiers have been deployed along the porous and rugged border, but tribesmen in the area openly say they would protect Taliban.

Afghan officials say the issue will be raised when Pakistani Foreign Minister Khursheed Kasuri visits Kabul on Thursday.

Pakistan abandoned its support for the Taliban following the Sept. 11 attacks. The nation has since become a key ally of the United States in its war on terror, arresting more than 500 suspected al-Qaida operatives.

However, the conservative tribal belt that runs along Pakistan's border with Afghanistan is believed to be a haven for Taliban, who share ethnic and religious links to Pakistani tribesmen.

The weekend violence the deaths of 64 people in various attacks around the country on Wednesday. Those deaths included casualties from a bus bombing that killed 15, a battle between feuding warlords and another skirmish with insurgents.

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