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Taliban attacks across Afghanistan kill 21 people

KABUL - Taliban fighters launched attacks in several Afghan provinces on Wednesday, killing at least 10 policemen and three civilians, officials said. Villagers also found the bodies of eight slain policemen who were abducted by militants two weeks ago.

The violence comes as the Islamic militant group has launched its annual spring offensive promising to step up attacks against Afghan security forces in a bid to undermine the Western-backed government as foreign combat troops prepare to withdraw by the end of the year. The Taliban also have pledged to disrupt voting as Afghans prepare for a second round of presidential elections on June 14. The first round was relatively peaceful, but no candidate won a majority forcing a runoff vote between the top two vote-getters — Abdullah Abdullah and Ashraf Ghani Ahmadzai.

Insurgents ambushed several police checkpoints in the northeastern Badakhshan province, prompting gunbattles that left six policemen dead in the Yamgan district, provincial police chief Gen. Fazeluddin Ayar said. The fighting started late Tuesday and lasted into Wednesday.

Reinforcements were sent to the site, but the police were forced to pull back from the area and were fighting the Taliban forces from surrounding mountains as army helicopters flew overhead, Ayar said. Five insurgents also were killed, and three policemen were wounded, he added.

The Taliban said its fighters had raised the movement's white flag above the district headquarters.

Militants disguised as women by wearing all-encompassing burqas also fired machine-guns and rocket-propelled grenades at a district base in the Alingar area of Laghman province, killing four policemen, provincial government spokesman Sarhadi Zwak said. He said the Taliban also suffered casualties but provided no details.

In a statement to media, the Taliban claimed responsibility for both attacks and said they were part of the spring offensive named Operation Khaibar, after a famous battle from the time of the Prophet Muhammad.

In other violence Wednesday, a suicide bomber walked into a district building in Hasarak in the eastern Nangarhar province and blew himself up, killing two civilians and wounded seven other people, including a senior district official Abdul Khaliq, said Ahmad Zia Abdulzai, the spokesman for the provincial governor.

A woman was killed and eight civilians wounded when a bomb hidden in a bag exploded at a bazaar in the Pashtun Kot district of the northern Faryab province, police spokesman Sayed Massoud Yaqoubi said.

And a sticky bomb attached to a local bus wounded a woman in Bagram district in Parwan province, said police chief Massom Farzahee. He said the belonged to a private company.

In southern Afghanistan, have found the bodies of eight slain police officers who had been kidnapped almost two weeks ago by Taliban insurgents in southern Afghanistan.

Mohammad Jan Rassoulyar, the deputy governor in Zabul province, said Wednesday that local residents in the Nawbahar district found the bodies the day before and reported them to police.

The policemen — seven local and one from the national force — were snatched by militants after an attack on their convoy two weeks ago from the same province, Rassoulyar said. The bodies were surrounded by explosives.


Associated Press writer Amir Shah contributed to this report from Kabul.

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