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13 July 2005 -- Assailants tentatively identified as Taliban guerrillas shot dead a senior pro-government cleric in Afghanistan's southern province of Helmand early today.

Provincial spokesman Haji Mohammad Wali said that an assailant shot Mawlavi Saleh Mohammad five times in the chest from the back of a motorcycle. He was the fourth senior cleric to be killed in the south since late May.

Mohammad headed the Ulema Council in Helmand.

The guerrillas have been targeting supporters of President Hamid Karzai's Western-backed government. Dozens of officials, soldiers, police, and others have died in growing militant violence as the 18 September parliamentary elections approach.

(Reuters/dpa/AFP)
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