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Insurgents Kill 7 Policemen in Afghanistan - 2004-06-28

Islamic militants linked to Afghanistan's ousted Taleban rulers have reportedly killed seven Afghan policemen in the west of the country. In a separate incident, U.S.-led anti-terror forces are said to have killed five Taleban insurgents and captured what they describe as two "mid-level" insurgents.

Taleban insurgents have stepped up anti-government activities ahead of Afghanistan's historic national elections set for September.

Authorities say that gunmen wearing military uniforms killed seven policemen in an ambush in the western province of Farah. No one has claimed responsibility for the killings.

In the province, Islamic militants are being blamed, but officials in Kabul say it could also have been the work of drug traffickers. The western region of the country borders Iran, and is one of the main routes for the illegal export of drugs.

The killing of the seven Afghan policemen follows two separate attacks last week on election workers and prospective voters. At least 18 people including two women election workers were killed in those attacks.

In a separate incident on Sunday, U.S. forces reportedly clashed with Taleban insurgents in Zabul province, in the south, killing five of them. There are no reports of any U.S. soldiers being injured. Local officials say the fighting erupted after a group of guerillas hiding in a village fired on a U.S. helicopter.

Speaking to reporters in Kabul Monday, a spokesman for the U.S.-led anti-terrorism coalition, Maj. Jon Siepmann, said that U.S. forces on Saturday captured two "mid-level" Taleban fighters in an operation in southern Afghanistan, but he did not offer further details.

He said that attempts to disrupt the election process would not succeed.

"This attack on Afghan women working to build democracy for Afghanistan will not stop registration. The men and women of Afghanistan will not be denied the right to vote," Maj. Siepmann said.

Meanwhile, a NATO official at the alliance's summit meeting in Turkey said leaders agreed Monday on an expansion of the NATO peacekeeping mission in Afghanistan, from 6,500 to 10,000.

Afghan President Hamid Karzai has said that in a speech to the NATO summit scheduled for Tuesday, he will repeat his call for an expansion of NATO forces to all provinces of Afghanistan before the September elections.

Most of the NATO-led peacekeeping forces are currently deployed in Kabul.