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Thursday, June 08, 2006

Taliban bomb, ambush kill 5 Afghan troops, police

KABUL, June 8 (Reuters) - Taliban insurgents have carried out a series of attacks in Afghanistan, killing at least five Afghan troops and police, and wounding four U.S.-led coalition soldiers, officials said on Thursday.

The 4-½ year old Taliban insurgency is going through its bloodiest phase, with some 400 people dying in bombings and clashes last month alone.

The guerrillas' offensive is believed to be aimed at weakening NATO members' resolve before its peacekeeping troops take over command next month of the violent southern provinces of Afghanistan, currently under coalition control.

In the southern province of Zabul, police on the outskirts of Qalat city caught a donkey laden with explosive materials and mortar rounds attached to a remote-controlled detonator.

"The donkey was to be used for an attack," Gulab Shah Alikhail, a provincial spokesman told Reuters.

A roadside bomb wounded four coalition soldiers in Zabul province on Wednesday. Another killed three Afghan troops on Thursday in Ghazni province to the southwest of the capital, Kabul, Nasir Hedayat, an Afghan officer said.

The Taliban also killed two policemen in an ambush in the southern province of Kandahar on Wednesday evening.

The Taliban and their Islamist allies are mostly active in southern and eastern areas.

NATO defence ministers began a two-day meeting in Brussels on Thursday, to finalise the 26-member alliance's plans to increase NATO troop strength in Afghanistan to 17,000 from 9,000.

After next month's handover of the south to NATO command, the U.S.-led coalition will be left only in control of the eastern region, while its troop strength is expected to be cut from 23,000 to around 20,000.
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