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Gunmen Kill Afghan Member Of Parliament

UN special envoy Kai Eide condemned the assassination
KABUL -- Two gunmen shot dead an Afghan parliamentarian near his home in the southern Afghan province of Kandahar, the Interior Ministry says.

Habibullah Sanzenai, a tribal leader and a member of the lower house of parliament for Kandahar, was shot returning home overnight in the Zhari district of the province, a hotbed of Taliban militant activity.

Taliban insurgents have targeted members of parliament and tribal leaders in the past, but denied any involvement in the latest killing.

"This attack represents an assault on the democratic will of the Afghan people who voted in their millions for peace, stability, and progress during historic elections in 2005," the UN special envoy for Afghanistan Kai Eide said in a statement.

Ten parliamentarians have been killed since the Afghan assembly was set up in 2005.

Five members of parliament were killed in a suicide attack that killed 72 people in the northern town of Baghlan in November 2007. Another deputy died in an attempt to assassinate President Hamid Karzai at a military parade in April.

The Taliban have created a "resilient insurgency" in Afghanistan, the Pentagon said last week, and violence has risen to new heights in recent weeks, despite the increased presence of foreign forces and more and better trained Afghan troops.

More than six years after U.S.-led and Afghan forces overthrew the Taliban in 2001 for refusing to hand over Al-Qaeda leaders behind the Sept. 11 attacks, many Afghans are growing weary with the ongoing violence and slow pace of development.

Civilian Deaths

The almost inevitable deaths of civilians caught up in the conflict also does little to bolster public support for international forces in Afghanistan.

Officials in the northeastern province of Nuristan said only civilians had been killed in an airstrike there on July 4, despite a U.S. military statement insisting militants had been killed.

"Fifteen people were martyred and seven wounded. A 6-month-old baby was also among those killed. So were six members of a family," provincial spokesman Mohammad Yousuf said. "All of them were civilians."

The governor of the district where the strike took place has said 22 civilians were killed.

The U.S. military said there were "no official reports of noncombatant injuries or casualties." U.S.-led coalition forces killed more than a dozen militants after an attack on an outpost in Nuristan, a military statement said.

"Ground forces called coalition attack helicopters for support. The helicopter crews coordinated with ground forces to positively identify the militants' vehicles. The attack helicopters then destroyed the two vehicles, killing more than a dozen militants," the statement said.

In the first six months of this year, 698 civilians were killed, 255 of them by Afghan government and foreign forces, the rest by the Taliban. In the same period last year, a total of 430 civilians were killed, the United Nations said.