Lt Cdr Ken Mackillop, spokesman for the peacekeepers based mainly in Kabul, said the raid took place between 3 am and 5 am in the Puli Charki district of the capital.

He gave no details of what the men were arrested for or what they were allegedly planning.

 

MacKillop said he had no further details other than that nobody was injured in the operation. Afghanistan's Intelligence Service had no comment on the raid.

 

A spokesman for the 18,000-strong US-led military force warned that the election was entering a crucial phase and that the Taliban were likely to try to disrupt it.

 

"We are getting to a more dangerous time," said spokesman Maj Scott Nelson.

"As we get closer to the election we expect to see more activity. We think we've done a good job along with the government of Afghanistan to disrupt a lot of their operations, but it only takes one person with a car bomb to get in there and get lucky and do something."


Under pressure
 

The US military also said its soldiers were fired upon at a base in south-eastern Khost province, near the border with Pakistan, on Friday.

Separately, suspected Taliban fighters fired rockets at a US military convoy in Orgun, another town in the southeast. No injuries were reported in either incident.

 

"They (Taliban) have significantly increased their information propaganda war"

Maj Scott Nelson,
US-led force spokesman

Against this backdrop of sporadic clashes, Major Nelson said there exists a significant threat to Kabul and the southern city of Kandahar, where the Taliban have said they will target.

 

He added that Taliban forces have tried to intimidate voters and local leaders.

 

"They have significantly increased their information propaganda war. We see a lot of 'night letters' in villages, particularly in the south and south east. The Taliban claim responsibility for things they didn't do, and also just make things up," he said.

 

"Night letters" are unsigned leaflets distributed to villagers.

Critics accuse President Karzai of
looking only after US interests

Different story


Residents on the other hand tell a different story - of government officials coercing people into getting "Karzai cards" and of some governors seizing properties and large farms, often selling them to the highest bidder and using the money for personal enrichment or to buy more weapons for personal armies.

Recently, Ahmad Khan Zadran from Zadran village told Aljazeera.net, "These corrupt governors were in power before the Taliban and have now only returned to steal more of our land. They left the country in a mess and want to do the same again. Who is the US actually helping?

"If the governors are corrupt now, imagine whats going to happen after the so-called elections," Zadran said.

 

 

He said "our living conditions have worsened instead of improving, especially after the US invaded our country. We only want to improve our lives and build our country".

Interim president Hamid Karzai, who is protected by special US bodyguards, cannot move around freely in any part of the country, according to some Afghans.

 

Washington's unoffically favoured candidate is tipped to win the elections.

The US invaded Afghanistan and toppled the Taliban after the religious movement failed to hand over Usama bin Ladin whom it blamed for the 11 September 2001 attacks.

As predicted, the Bush administration has already started projecting the US invasion of Afghanistan as a success story in the run-up to US elections.