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Second Stage of Afghan Security Transfer Begins

The second stage of Afghanistan's security transition officially started Thursday as NATO forces handed over a province north of the capital to Afghan troops.

The U.S. commander of NATO-led forces in Afghanistan, General John Allen, marked the occasion in Parwan's provincial capital, Charikar, in a ceremony with Afghan officials. All but two districts of Parwan province are being handed over to the control of Afghan security forces.

Six other provinces, as well as various districts and cities throughout the country, are expected to transition formally to the Afghans in the coming weeks.

The first stage of the transition began earlier this year.

Canadian defense officials announced Thursday that they lowered their country's flag in Kandahar for the last time, in a ceremony to mark the end of their military deployment to southern Afghanistan.

Canada sent nearly 3,000 troops to the region in 2005 as part of a NATO-led force to battle insurgents. About 950 Canadian military trainers will remain in the country to help train the Afghan army and police.

All foreign forces are expected to fully withdraw from Afghanistan in 2014 as part of an agreement with the Afghan government.

In other news, police say gunmen have kidnapped seven Pakistani engineers working in eastern Afghanistan.

The engineers were working on a hospital construction project in the Pul-e-alam district of Logar province.

Authorities say the Pakistanis were abducted at gunpoint Wednesday as they returned home after work.

No group has claimed responsibility for the kidnapping.

Elsewhere, a roadside bomb killed three Afghan police officers in the northeast province of Baghlan Thursday.