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Attack Kills At Least 9 South of Afghan Capital - 2003-08-19

At least nine Afghan policemen are dead after being attacked while driving near the town of Kharwar, south of the capital Kabul. The recent upsurge in violence is likely to get even worse.

Afghan officials are blaming the ambush on men loyal to the former Taleban government. This time, they struck in Logar province, located between the Kabul district and violence-racked Paktia province.

The incident marks the third such attack on Afghan police in 48 hours, all of them in the eastern portion of the country.

All the attacks are said to be the work of Taleban militants, as well as elements of the al-Qaida terror network and forces loyal to renegade warlord Gulbuddin Hekmatyar.

Afghanistan's Foreign Ministry spokesman Omar Samad said the insurgents are taking advantage of warm weather to make a violent challenge to the Afghan transitional government. "It's the end of the summer season, and they are attempting to make a showing and to show that they are still a force to reckon with," he said.

This latest attack took place on Monday and was reported by officials Tuesday. It caps one of the country's bloodiest weeks since the overthrow of the Taleban in 2001. Almost 100 people have been killed in a series of attacks around the country.

Mr. Samad thinks the rise in violence is linked to the coming loya jirga, or grand council, at which the nation's new draft constitution is slated to be unveiled. "The closer we get to the loya jirga and to the elections and the more the democratization of society moves ahead, you will see these elements of terror and destabilization attempt to undermine everything that has been achieved in Afghanistan," he explained.

The loya jirga is scheduled to begin in early October. National elections must be held by June 2004 under the terms of the Bonn Agreement, which established the current transitional government.

Despite the recent violence, however, Afghanistan remained relatively calm Tuesday, as the country marked its 84th independence day.

The day, which marks the end of Afghanistan's domination by the British, is one of two independence holidays. The second falls in April and marks the ousting of Afghanistan's Soviet-backed communist government.