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Taleban Militants Kill 3 Security Officers, Capture 8 - 2003-10-13

An Afghan official says a large force of suspected Taleban militants has killed at least three security officers and captured eight others.

The attack occurred in Zabul province, the site of intense fighting over the past several months between insurgent forces and Afghan government troops aided by the U.S. military.

Deputy Provincial Governor Mohammed Omar tells VOA that the attack was staged by troops loyal to the country's former Taleban leaders, the strict Islamic regime ousted some two years ago. He says the insurgents arrived before dawn on Sunday, and attacked district government headquarters. Mr. Omar says one militant was killed and two were injured.

Residents say a group of Taleban loyalists arrived in the village of Khaka-Afghan and assembled passers by. The militants then reportedly appointed one of the villagers to replace the local official, Haji Mulakhil. Mr. Omar says the provincial government will by no means recognize the man selected to replace Mr. Mulakhil.

Zabul and neighboring provinces have seen insurgent attacks increase during the past several months, but Afghan central government officials, like Interior Minister Ali Jalali, say it is only a matter of time until the insurgents are defeated.

"How long? It depends on how soon we can actually build our national capacity to the point where we will be able to respond to these challenges alone, and also to the commitment of the international community," says Mr. Jalali. "And also the cooperation of neighboring countries, particularly Pakistan, where many of these terrorist networks have established their camps."

While Zabul shares a border with Pakistan, many of the recent attacks have taken place on the other side of the province, near a mountain range believed to be a stronghold of the Taleban remnants.

Afghanistan has long accused Pakistan of harboring insurgents that cross into Afghanistan, but Pakistan has launched several initiatives to crack down on militants.

Afghan President Hamid Karzai, however, says the Pakistanis must do more to stamp out the insurgent presence on its soil.