Six Afghan soldiers and a driver for the US-based aid agency Mercy Corps were killed on Thursday in a raid by suspected Taliban members in the troubled southern province of Helmand.
Mohammad Ayoub, deputy police chief of Helmand province, said the attack came just before dawn on a remote district headquarters in Deshu, not far from the Pakistani border.
"Six army soldiers and a driver for Mercy Corps lost their lives in the incident, which happened after morning prayers."
He said the soldiers were killed while resisting the raid. He did not know if any of the attackers, whom he described as Taliban members, had been killed.
Ayoub said the attack and many previous ones appeared to have been organized in Pakistan, despite its status as an ally in the US-led "war on terror".
"And I presume they went back there," he said. "They get the training and preparation in Pakistan." Islamabad says it does all it can to stop Taliban members from slipping into Afghanistan for attacks.
|"The attack and many previous ones appeared to have been organized in Pakistan, despite its status as an ally in the US-led "war on terror". |
--Deputy police chief Mohammad Ayoub
Rod Volway, head of the Mercy Corps office in the neighbouring province of Kandahar, said he had received reports that a Mercy Corps employee had been killed but had not been able to confirm them.
He said three Afghan employees of the agency had been in Deshu conducting an assessment for an agricultural project. He said one was safe, one had fled and one was missing.
Volway said that from the reports he had, it appeared the district office, not the aid workers, had been the target. Mercy Corps has headquarters in the United States and Scotland.
The raid comes about 10 days after six Afghan soldiers were killed in an ambush by suspected Taliban members in another area of Helmand.
It was also close to a district in Kandahar province where five police officers and a police chief were killed in a similar attack earlier in July.
Southern Afghanistan used to be the heartland of the Taliban until it was toppled by US-led forces in late 2001.
The region has been the scene of repeated attacks this year in which more than 100 government soldiers and civilians have been killed or wounded.