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Taliban Attack Fears Rise Amid New Afghan Violence
Published on Tuesday, April 26, 2005 by the Agence France Presse
Taliban Attack Fears Rise Amid New Afghan Violence
 

KABUL -- Security experts have warned of a new upsurge in Taliban attacks in Afghanistan, as police defused a huge car bomb in a western city and six people died in a militant onslaught on an official building.

The incidents, which both happened late on Sunday, crowned a week of bloody violence in which a Romanian soldier, three Afghans and 47 militants from the ousted fundamentalist militia were killed.

Dozens of suspected Taliban armed with rockets and machineguns stormed the government headquarters in Reg district of southern Kandahar province, before fleeing after an hour-long firefight, officials said.

"We lost two policemen and four Taliban were killed," deputy police commander Salim Khan told AFP on Monday. The militants had come from neighbouring Pakistan's restive tribal areas he said, without giving evidence.

At around the same time Afghan police discovered almost half a tonne of rockets, mortar rounds, land mines and dynamite wired together and packed into a Toyota car in the western city of Herat.

Meanwhile two US and two Afghan soldiers were wounded on Sunday when their patrol came under attack north of Deh Rahwood district in Uruzgan Province, a US military statement said. It did not say who launched the assault.

The Taliban claimed responsibility for planting a mine which killed the Romanian soldier and injured another the same day in Kandahar, the spiritual homeland and birthplace of the hardline Islamist rebels.

The guerrillas said they also planted another small car bomb which exploded in a residential neighbourhood of the capital Kabul on Sunday, without causing any casualties.

"I think there will be a more concerted effort towards district centers, urban centers and towards the capital itself," Nick Downie, security coordinator for the Afghanistan Nongovernmental Organisation Security Network, which advises aid agencies.

"Militants will also target government at all levels and the reconstruction process especially," he added.

The US military and security sources did warn that the Taliban would launch a fresh offensive coinciding with the end of Afghanistan's bitterest winter in a decade, but the scale has been particularly intense.

According to a toll compiled by AFP, 51 people were killed in April 2004 in political violence, compared with 79 so far this month.

The commander of the US-led coalition in Afghanistan, Lieutenant General David Barno, said earlier this month that the Taliban and Al-Qaeda will want a "propaganda victory" ahead of the country's September 18 parliamentary polls.

Over the last week, poorly-equipped Taliban-led militants have borne the brunt of the casualties in a string of attacks in southern Afghanistan and along the rugged border with Pakistan.

Seventeen Taliban and Al-Qaeda-linked militants were killed in gunbattles and US airstrikes in southern Zabul province on April 18, while Afghan soldiers killed two Taliban rebels the same day in neighbouring Uruzgan.

On Tuesday 14 unidentified militants died in southeastern Khost province Tuesday after a rocket attack on a US base and two days later fighting in southeastern Paktika province left four militants and an Afghan soldier dead.

A further six Taliban were killed and four policemen injured in an attack on a police checkpoint in Zabul on Saturday.

There are 16,000 American and 2,000 other foreign troops in Afghanistan. But security expert Downie said that while coalition troops were better equipped, guerrillas can sow fear effectively through a handful of high-profile attacks.

"The problem is that the insurgent has to do very little to be effective," he added.

Copyright © 2005 Agence France Presse

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