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Taliban Attack Afghan Govt office, kill 3 soldiers
( 2003-08-18 16:40) (Agencies)

About 200 Taliban fighters attacked a district headquarters in southeastern Afghanistan and killed three government soldiers, a day after militants killed six troops in same area, police said on Monday.

They also kidnapped four soldiers in the attack in Terwah district in the province of Paktika late on Sunday, provincial police chief Dawlat Khan told Reuters.

"They burned down the building completely," Khan said by satellite phone from Paktika. "They apparently killed three soldiers and took four others with them."

Terwah is close to Barmal district, where officials said scores of suspected Taliban guerrillas killed at least six police troopers on Saturday before escaping into neighboring Pakistan.

Officials estimate that 16 Taliban guerrillas were killed in the attack on Barmal.

"The size of Taliban force, I am told, was about 200 and they all fled to Pakistan," Khan said of Terwah raid.

The attack was the latest in a spate of violence that has swept the country in the past week, fueling concern about an increasingly bold and resurgent Taliban movement operating from the porous border region with Pakistan.

Last week was one of the bloodiest weeks in Afghanistan since the Taliban was overthrown in late 2001 by a U.S.-led military coalition.

At least 65 people were killed last Tuesday and Wednesday in a series of incidents, including a bomb on a passenger bus, a factional clash, fighting between government and Taliban guerrillas and an ambush on a local aid group.

Khan said he believed the raids in Paktika were all organized in Pakistan and could not have been carried out without the support of Pakistani border forces.

"They regularly organize there and then come to carry out attacks here," he said. "Pakistan's border militia see these people moving back and forth, but do not stop them."

Relations between Afghanistan and Pakistan have soured in recent months over accusations by Kabul that Pakistan is allowing, and in some cases even aiding, the Taliban and other groups to launch attacks on Afghan soil.

Pakistan, which was the main backer of the Taliban government until the September 11, 2001, attacks on the United States, denies the accusations and says it is doing all it can to assist the U.S.-led "war on terror."

The latest violence has triggered renewed calls for NATO, which took command of Kabul peacekeeping operations last Monday, to expand its operations to the lawless provinces.

As well as the 5,000-strong NATO-led peacekeeping operation in Kabul, a 12,500-strong U.S.-led coalition is hunting remnants of the Taliban and the allied al Qaeda network, mainly in the east and the southeast.

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