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Taliban warns Afghans to avoid foreign troops

Written by: Staff

KABUL, July 23 (Reuters) Taliban militants today warned Afghans to keep away from foreign troops as they planned more attacks, a day after a twin suicide strike against a Canadian patrol killed at least five locals.

The threat of more such attacks, made by a Taliban spokesman in a phone call to Reuters, comes a week before the 26-nation NATO alliance takes on security from a U S-led force in southern Afghanistan, its most dangerous assignment in its history.

The U S-led coalition said Saturday's back-to-back bombings in Kandahar, which also killed two Canadian soldiers and wounded dozens of bystanders, would anger the local population.

A suicide car bomber rammed a coalition vehicle convoy in the heart of the city, a Taliban stronghold, and as Afghan authorities tried to push back onlookers and deal with casualties a second suicide bomber blew himself up.

''Recently we've seen populations in the towns and villages where we operate actually push the Taliban away, and not welcome them and harbour them,'' said Major Scott Lundy, a spokesman for the U.S.-led force.

''We think Kandaharis we will be upset with the Taliban and probably not offer any assistance to them. We're hopeful the population of Kandahar will now perhaps resist the Taliban more than they did yesterday,'' Lundy said by phone from the city.

Taliban spokesman Qari Muhammad Yousaf said Afghan civilians should stay away from coalition and Afghan military installations as they are preparing more big attacks.

Speaking from an undisclosed location he said civilians should avoid attack sites as second or third strikes could take place against the same target. Afghanistan has witnessed around 30 suicide attacks this year, killing mostly civilians, in a what is a relatively new tactic employed by militants in their to force out foreign forces and topple President Hamid Karzai's government.

Coalition forces have been conducting daily offensives against the militants in the south where thousands of NATO-led troops have started to arrive to allow the U S Army to reduce the size of its force in Afghanistan.

NATO will take over security in six dangerous southern provinces from the coalition at the end of the month, extending its control to almost all of the country except the east.

More than 1,700 people have been killed in Afghan violence this year, most of them Taliban, according to U S and Afghan figures.

More than 70 foreign troops as well as scores of civilians have also been killed.

Reuters DKB RS1509

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