Rebels blamed

Chishti blamed the attack on rebels loyal to Ghulam Mustafa, a former anti-Soviet rebel commander "who has now joined the Taliban".

Mustafa admitted his men killed the policemen but denied his links to the Taliban, in a telephone interview with the AFP news agency.

"I'm not with the Taliban. We killed 10 policemen. They were the ones attacking us first," the rebel commander told the AFP.

Parts of Afghanistan have been battered by Taliban attacks as the group, who were removed from government in late 2001, are leading a rebellion against the government.

The rebellion, which has grown in recent years, is said to be supported by the al-Qaeda with drug traffickers and other criminals also reportedly benefiting.