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Afghan gunmen kill 9 guards protecting NATO convoy

Gunmen killed nine Afghan workers who were guarding a NATO supply convoy in the south of the country, police said Monday.
/ Source: The Associated Press

Gunmen killed nine Afghan workers who were guarding a NATO supply convoy in the south of the country, police said Monday.

The attack in Gereshk district happened on Sunday night, said the deputy police chief for Helmand province, Kamaluddin Khan. Military supply convoys are regularly attacked in Afghanistan, where they are seen as an easier target for insurgents than NATO bases.

The shootings come about a week after trucks bearing NATO supplies for troops began flowing again through the important Khyber Pass crossing from Pakistan into Afghanistan. Pakistan had closed the Torkham crossing in protest at a NATO helicopter strike that killed two Pakistani border guards.

During the 11-day blockade, about 150 trucks were destroyed and some drivers and police were injured in near-daily attacks in Pakistan. NATO, however, said its supplies were not interrupted as it simply sent supplies through other routes — such as crossings in the west or further south.

Separately, airstrikes by international coalition forces killed up to 14 suspected insurgents. An airstrike in northern Baghlan province reportedly killed around 10 people Sunday, a NATO statement said. It had targeted a leader accused of planting bombs and supplying cash and weapons to Taliban leadership in the area. However, NATO was not able to confirm the number of casualties because neither international or Afghan soldiers could get to the area.

Another airstrike in southern Nimroz province killed four fighters who were planting a bomb, said provincial police chief Abdul Jabar Pardeli. A Taliban commander was among those killed by Sunday night's strike, he said.

Violence has risen in the south of the country as NATO and Afghan forces have for months attempted to push insurgents from their strongholds in the Taliban heartland of Kandahar.

Checkpoints have been set up around Kandahar city in an attempt to keep insurgents from entering and carrying out attacks.

Control of Kandahar is seen as key to reversing Taliban momentum in the war. The nearly 150,000 international troops and 220,000 Afghan security forces are still struggling to gain the upper hand against an estimated 30,000 insurgents.

The nine-year war has inflicted a mounting toll on Afghan civilians who are caught in the crossfire. In western Afghanistan, a roadside bomb killed three civilians Monday morning in Herat city, police said. Police spokesman Noor Nikzad said the bomb was hidden in a sack in an irrigation ditch. When officers went to inspect the object, it exploded. The three victims had been walking nearby. Nikzad said one police officer was wounded.

Meanwhile, NATO forces say that a detainee captured in an operation in the south was found dead in his holding cell Sunday.

NATO says the man was being held in Kandahar province after being detained Saturday, and the alliance is investigating the circumstances of his death. The international military coalition gave no further information.


Associated Press Writer Mirwais Khan in Kandahar contributed to this report.