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Afghanistan: Insurgents Step Up Attacks In South

Insurgents are stepping up attacks on convoys in southern Afghanistan as the country prepares for parliamentary elections on 18 September. Armed rebels yesterday ambushed a convoy of trucks carrying supplies to a U.S. military base in southern Zabol Province. Three policemen guarding the convoy were killed. Today, the Afghan government confirmed that the body of a British citizen has been found after he was abducted in another attack on a convoy on 31 August.

Prague; 4 September 2005 (RFE/RL) -- Afghan Interior Ministry spokesman Lutfullah Mashal confirmed today that a British man, David Addison, kidnapped in Afghanistan four days ago has been found dead.

British Foreign Office Minister Kim Howells said in a statement yesterday that a body found in western Afghanistan is believed to be that of Addison. Howells said it is too early to say how and when Addison died, but blamed the Taliban for his abduction.

Addison, an engineer, was kidnapped along with his interpreter when insurgents attacked on 31 August a convoy traveling the main road between the southwestern city of Kandahar and the western city of Herat. In the attack, three police escorts were killed.

The abductions and killings are part of an upswing in violence in Afghanistan ahead of parliamentary elections scheduled for 18 September.

Yesterday, the Taliban claimed responsibility for the abduction and killing of five people, including an election candidate and a government official.

"The New York Times" reports that election candidate, Hajji Khan Mohammad Yakubi, was traveling with district chief Mohammad Nawab Khan and three security guards in the southern province of Kandahar when they were abducted.

A Taliban spokesman, Abdul Latif Hakimi, told media by telephone that the men had been tried and executed by a makeshift court in the desert. Local officials have not yet confirmed the deaths.

On 2 September, a bomb exploded in the eastern province of Khost, wounding five people. Among the wounded were two bodyguards of another election candidate, who escaped injury.

The unrest has highlighted the fact that -- nearly four years after U.S. forces toppled the Taliban -- security remains a major concern in parts of Afghanistan.

Recent months have seen one of the most violent periods since the Taliban’s defeat, with more than 1,000 deaths occurring since the start of the year. The toll includes 75 U.S. soldiers -- the most in any year since the Taliban were deposed.

Interior Ministry spokesman Mashal said that the government is working to better secure main roads but that travelers must continue to be careful.

"Well we had already told and advised international community expatriates who are living in Afghanistan, NGO workers, to be vigilant and careful while traveling outside main cities. In order to provide better security on highways the highway police have been strengthened, we have deployed more police officers on Kabul-Kandahar highway, Kandahar-Herat highway, and other important highways of Afghanistan in order to provide security," Mashal said.

Some 20,000 U.S. troops are battling Taliban guerillas, mostly in the south and east of the country.

About 10,000 NATO-led peacekeepers operate mostly in Kabul, the north and the west.

See also:

RFE/RL Special: Afghanistan Votes 2005