Taliban: No attacks on polling stations

Taliban fighters will not attack polling stations during next month's election in Afghanistan, but say their war against the government and US forces will go on.

    The rebel movement says it wants to avoid civilian casualties

    US and Afghan government troops have killed more than 100 fighters over the past few weeks in aggressive operations aimed at ensuring security for the 18 September election, the US military said.

    "We have decided not to target polling stations in civilian areas," Taliban spokesman Abdul Latif Hakimi said by telephone on Monday from an undisclosed location.

    "US and Afghan forces are setting up polling stations in crowded areas which if attacked will cause big losses," said Hakimi.

    Violence increasing

    About 1000 people, most of them Taliban fighters, have been killed in clashes, ambushes and bomb blasts this year, raising concern about the election, particularly in the country's most-troubled areas in the south and east. 

    The Taliban says it is seeking to
    disrupt the elections

    US forces have suffered 47 deaths in combat in Afghanistan this year, four in a blast on Sunday, their worst casualty rate in the country since arriving in late 2001 to force the Taliban from power.

    Despite the violence, Afghan government and US officials say the vote, the country's next big step on a difficult path to stability, will not be disrupted.

    The Taliban have condemned the election and warned people not to take part, but have not threatened to attack polling stations.

    Taliban to continue

    Hakimi said Taliban attacks would go on. 

    "Our movement is not restricted to the polls," he said. "Our aim is not only to disrupt the elections, our attacks will continue even after the elections."

    Afghan and US forces have
    clashed with rebels

    The US military says it is involved in aggressive operations to ensure polling security and 105 militants have been killed in a series of clashes over recent weeks in two provinces.

    "ANA and coalition forces continue to aggressively establish enduring security," US spokeswoman Lieutenant Cindy Moore told a briefing, referring to the US-trained Afghan National Army.

    About 65 militants have been killed in 25 clashes in Zabul province in the south over the past week, while about 40 were killed in fighting in Kunar province in the east over the last several weeks, she said.

    Helicopter downed

    Kunar, near the Pakistani border, was the scene in June of the heaviest US casualties in a combat incident in Afghanistan.

    Sixteen American troops were killed when militants shot down their helicopter during a mission to rescue a four-man team trapped in a firefight.

    Three members of the trapped team were killed and one rescued.

    The United States heads a 20,000-strong international force in Afghanistan fighting Taliban and al-Qaida militants and hunting for their leaders.

    Another 10,000 Nato-led peacekeepers are also helping with security for the parliamentary and provincial elections.

    SOURCE: Agencies


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