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Officials in Afghanistan's northern Balkh Province say a group of villagers has organized an armed force to help police provide security during the upcoming parliamentary elections, RFE/RL's Radio Free Afghanistan reports.

District chief Amir Shah told Radio Free Afghanistan that fighters in a dozen villages in the Charbolak district of Balkh Province have been armed by local authorities to "secure their areas on their own."

He said the force numbers about 80 men armed with Kalashnikov assault rifles.

Shah said the men are not "militia forces" but are recruited based on recommendations from village elders who are operating within the local police framework.

The move comes as Afghanistan prepares for national parliamentary elections on September 18 and amid concerns that the Taliban will seek to disrupt voting.

Taliban insurgents have become increasingly active in northern parts of the country over the past 18 months. Although Balkh Province has been relatively free of violence, insurgents regularly attack sites in neighboring Konduz Province as they seek to widen their presence in the region.