msnbc.com news services
updated 8/31/2005 7:47:24 AM ET 2005-08-31T11:47:24

U.S. aircraft bombed a Taliban position in central Afghanistan killing eight militants in the latest violence in the run-up to a Sept. 18 election, a provincial official said on Wednesday.

U.S. and Afghan troops, acting on intelligence reports that Taliban had set up a base in the mountains of Uruzgan province, were met with a hail of bullets when they went to investigate on Tuesday, provincial governor Jan Mohammad Khan said, adding an air strike was called later.

“The Taliban showed resistance ... the U.S. aircraft bombed the base,” Khan told Reuters.

A U.S. military spokeswoman said she had no information about the fighting.

A Taliban spokesman confirmed the latest fighting but, speaking by telephone from an undisclosed location, said 12 Afghan government troops and U.S. soldiers had been killed.

U.S. forces killed a senior Taliban commander in Uruzgan province last week. The man, Payenda Mohammed, had been responsible for a spate of attacks, the U.S. military said.

U.S. and Afghan government forces have mounted a series of operations in the south and east in recent months to root out pockets of militants and ensure security for the parliament elections.

Fourth candidate slain
In the latest attack directly linked to the polls, gunmen on Sunday ambushed a parliamentary candidate, Adiq Ullah, as he was driving in Uruzgan province, killing him and wounding two others in his vehicle, said provincial Gov. Jan Mohammed Khan.

He blamed the Taliban for the murder. Security forces pursued the insurgents, but they escaped, the governor said.

Ullah’s killing brings to four the number of candidates killed in the lead-up to the polls. Four election workers have also been murdered and several election offices have been rocketed.

About 1,000 people have been killed in violence this year, most of them militants, but including 48 U.S. soldiers.

Afghan and U.S. officials say the insurgents will not be allowed to disrupt the vote. Election organisers are cautiously optimistic that polling in most areas will be smooth.

About 20,000 U.S. troops and 10,000 NATO peacekeepers are focussing on security for the election.

The Associated Press and Reuters contributed to this report.

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