news services
updated 9/22/2006 11:55:09 AM ET 2006-09-22T15:55:09

Militants ambushed a bus carrying construction workers in volatile southern Afghanistan, killing 19 of the laborers Friday, the Interior Ministry said.

The attack occurred shortly after noon in Kandahar province when a roadside bomb exploded near the bus, said Zemeri Bashary, the Interior Ministry spokesman.

Some of the laborers may have been killed by the bomb, while others were shot by militants who attacked the panicked workers with gunfire, he said.

A Taliban spokesman, Qari Mohammad Yousuf, claimed responsibility, saying the laborers were working for the government. The men were building a district government building near the Pakistani border, the ministry official said.

This year has been the bloodiest since the Taliban were driven from power in 2001 by U.S.-led forces for refusing to give up Osama bin Laden.

More than 2,000 people, mainly rebels but including civilians and Afghan and foreign troops, have been killed in fighting this year.

Annan's warning
U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan said on Thursday the violence represented a watershed and was the most severe threat to the country’s transition since 2001.

About 40,000 NATO and U.S.-led troops are trying to push back the Taliban and ensure security for development programmes, such as building roads.

NATO is seeking 2,500 extra troops after its forces in the south, in particular British and Canadian troops, have come up against a much more aggressive Taliban than expected.

In a separate incident, Afghan security forces clashed with a group of Taliban in the southern province of Uruzgan.

The provincial police chief said 20 Taliban and one member of the security forces were killed. Taliban spokesman Yousuf said the Taliban had killed 14 government soldiers.

A body found in the southern province of Helmand was identified as that of a Turkish guard kidnapped last month, a Turkish embassy official said.

The Taliban said its militants had killed the guard after the Turkish construction company he had been protecting ignored an ultimatum to leave Afghanistan.

The Taliban regard companies involved in reconstruction as supporting the U.S.-led military mission.

In the eastern province of Kunar, gunmen attacked a convoy of oil tankers importing fuel for foreign forces killing a Pakistani worker and destroying five tankers, a government official said.

AP and Reuters contributed to this report.


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