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Five Afghan health workers killed in attack

Written by: Staff
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KABUL, Apr 10 (Reuters) Unidentified gunmen killed five Afghan health workers at a remote clinic in the northwestern province of Badghis, officials said today.

Taliban insurgents are not known to be active in the area but there have been several recent attacks in the generally peaceful north and west, part of a surge in violence blamed on the insurgents fighting foreign troops and the government.

''Five Health Ministry workers including nurses, doctors and a driver were killed when gunmen fired at them in their clinic last night,'' said provincial governor Enayatullah Enayat.

''Only enemies of Afghanistan would resort to this,'' he said.

Government officials often refer to Taliban and their Islamist militant allies as ''enemies of Afghanistan''.

A Health Ministry official blamed ''terrorists'' trying to intimidate people supporting the government.

The Taliban have regularly attacked aid workers saying their work is supporting the government. About 30 aid workers were killed last year.

Five workers of the Medecins Sans Frontieres medical aid group, three foreigners and two Afghans, were killed in an ambush in Badghis in 2004. Officials said at the time Taliban insurgents were responsible.

A recent surge in suicide-bomb blasts and other violence followed a Taliban announcement they had launched a spring offensive and comes as NATO members are preparing to send thousands more peacekeepers.

There have been three suicide car-bomb attacks on Afghan and foreign military bases since Friday.

ATTACKS INCREASING Two policemen were killed and two wounded by a roadside bomb in the southern province of Helmand today. The driver of a truck supplying a foreign military base was killed in an ambush in the same province, police said.

A Taliban spokesman said by telephone from an undisclosed location that U.S. aircraft had bombed parts of Helmand on Monday. A U.S. spokesman said offensive operations were underway and declined to give details.

Britain, Canada and the Netherlands are leading a NATO expansion into the dangerous south as the United States hopes to cut its Afghan force by several thousand to about 16,500.

Critics say the troops risk getting bogged down in a relentless insurgency fuelled in part by the drugs trade. Most Afghans say they want foreign troops to stay until their army and police can ensure security.

The U.S. military says the insurgents are unable to mount large-scale guerrilla attacks, after suffering heavy losses this time last year, and are resorting to bombs to break the will of the people and Afghanistan's foreign backers.

''It's just straight fact, the numbers are increasing, they're increasing in the form of an IED or different tactic,'' U.S. military spokesman Colonel Jim Yonts told a briefing, referring to so-called improvised explosive devices and other bomb attacks.

''It is something very hard to combat ... it take more than just a military approach,'' said Yonts, speaking before news of the attack on the clinic broke.

The insurgents also knew they were running out of time with NATO reinforcements on the way and Afghan forces getting stronger, Yonts said.

U.S.-led forces had killed two Taliban commanders in Helmand on Friday and Saturday, he said. He declined to identify them, citing operational security.

REUTERS SRS HS2143

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