Taliban kill 30, abduct 10 Afghans - lawmaker

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KABUL, Afghanistan, June 19 (Reuters) Taliban guerrillas have killed more than 30 people and abducted 10 in southern Afghanistan, a parliamentarian said today, the latest attack in the bloodiest phase of violence in nearly five years.

The killings happened in two separate ambushes in the restive province of Helmand yesterday, said Dad Mohammad Khan, a member of the upper house and an ex-spy chief for Helmand who lost two brothers and a son in the attacks.

The Taliban have stepped up attacks in the south ahead of NATO taking over from US forces, and coalition troops have launched their biggest offensive, since the 2001 invasion, to crush the rebels and cut off their supply routes.

The US military said it had killed two Taliban guerrillas and captured five yesterday in Zabul province. The open-ended operation has killed about 100 militants in recent days.

Khan said the Taliban killed six policeman and one of his brothers, a former provincial official, in the first attack.

When relatives of the victims went to the site to recover the bodies, they too came under attack from the Taliban and 25 were believed to have been killed, he added.

''In total 32 people, two of my brothers and one of my sons...

have been killed in these incidents,'' he said. ''Ten of our people have gone missing. I believe they have been abducted and killed too by the Taliban.'' Taliban officials could not be immediately contacted for comment, but a spokesman for the militant group yesterday confirmed involvement of Taliban fighters in the first ambush.

Afghan officials also confirmed the first ambush, and said they were checking on the second one.

Helmand is the main producer of Afghanistan's illegal drugs and is also riven with tribal and factional rivalry which kills hundreds of people every year.

Almost 1,000 people have been killed in Taliban violence and coalition-led operations in Afghanistan this year, including more than 40 foreign soldiers, most of them Americans.

NATO troops are due to take over responsibility for the south soon, allowing the United States to reduce its troop levels in the country to 20,000 from about 23,000.


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