In the southern province of Zabul, a senior police official, Muhammad Rasoul, was killed and four other people, including two senior provincial officials, were wounded after the Taliban hit their car with a rocket on Tuesday night.

 

Yousuf Stanizai, the interior ministry spokesman, said: "They were part of a reinforcement sent to help a group of highway police who had come under Taliban attack on a road of Zabul."

 

An official in Zabul, who declined to be identified, said more than 10 policemen were killed in the Taliban assault on Wednesday.

 

Increasing activity

 

The raid in Zabul came hours after the Taliban attacked a police base in Chora district of neighbouring Uruzgan province and abducted up to 40 policemen, an official in Kabul said on condition of anonymity.

 

Protests started after a US army
vehicle accidently killed civilians

A Reuters reporter received a phone call from an unknown person who described himself as Mulla Ahmad, a Taliban commander. He said that his fighters had taken the officers hostage and the Taliban's leadership would decide their fate.

 

He said his movement's fighters had killed 12 police in the attack before kidnapping the others.

 

Meanwhile, Kabul was calm on Wednesday morning after anti-US riots two days earlier, in which seven Afghans were killed. The riots in the capital were started by a crash in which a US military vehicle killed five civilians.

 

The violence in Zabul and Uruzgan comes after a series of operations by US-led coalition forces in the south in the past two weeks.

 

Air strikes

About 350 people have been killed, many of them in air strikes. Most of those killed were fighters, but the toll also includes dozens of police, at least 17 civilians and four foreign troops.

 

Taliban refused to hand over
bin Laden to the US

It is a period in which the Taliban have been very active against the US military presence in Afghanistan, since US-led forces overthrew the Taliban government in 2001 for refusing to hand over Osama bin Laden, the leader of al-Qaeda.

 

The Taliban and their Islamist allies are mostly active in the southern and eastern areas.

 

Nearly 23,000 coalition troops are battling Taliban fighters while a Nato-led force has begun expanding its mission into the south.