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Afghans Shift Independence Celebration To Secret Venue

KABUL -- Afghanistan has changed the venue for its independence celebration on August 18 to an undisclosed location, an official said, after President Hamid Karzai survived an attempt on his life by Taliban in a military parade in April.

Afghanistan has seen an upsurge of violence since 2006 when the ousted Taliban relaunched their insurgency and Kabul has suffered a series of major raids this year, including the attack on Karzai.

Several security officials have been arrested for having links to the attack on Karzai, leader of the country since U.S.-led troops overthrew the Taliban government in 2001.

"The [independence] venue has been changed to a secret site. It will not be held in public as it was [in recent years]," Defense Ministry spokesman Zaher Azimi said.

"It has been changed in order to not cause disruption in the traffic and people's movement," Azimi said when asked if the move had any link to security fears or the April attack on Karzai.

Previous independence celebrations were held in the presence of top government officials and foreign military commanders as well as diplomats, in a sports stadium several hundred meters away from the presidential palace and adjacent to the site of April's military parade.

Afghanistan secured its independence from Britain in 1919 after two wars with the world's then most powerful empire.

Violence On The Rise

Violence since 2006 has been the bloodiest since the Taliban's removal from power and comes despite the increasing size of foreign forces, now numbering more than 71,000, and over 140,000 Afghan forces.

Taliban and Al-Qaeda leaders are still at large, and foreign forces under the command of the U.S. military and NATO say they will be in the country until the Afghan government manages to stand on its feet.

In one of the deadliest recent attacks by insurgents amid rising violence in the country, 10 police were killed by a roadside bomb in Afghanistan's southern province of Kandahar, police said on August 17.

The policemen were killed when the device hit their vehicle during a patrol late on August 16, Kandahar's provincial police chief Mataiullah Abid told reporters.

Taliban Ridicule

The Al-Qaeda-backed resurgent Taliban scoffed at the government's independence plans, saying Afghanistan was under foreign occupation now.

In a commentary posted on its Website, the Taliban also repeated that its campaign would continue until the withdrawal of foreign forces.

"The independence anniversary...comes at time that the country is actually under foreign invasion by the armies of Britain and America among 40 other infidel countries," the Taliban said.

Frustration is growing among many Afghans over rampant corruption, insecurity, and the booming heroin trade, as well as civilian casualties in the fighting against the militant insurgents.