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Taliban Vows to Disrupt Afghan Elections

The Taliban on Sunday announced plans to disrupt Afghanistan's parliamentary elections, scheduled for September 18.

A Taliban spokesman, Zabihullah Mujahid, told reporters that the balloting is just for the benefit of the foreigners who he says are occupying the country. And he urged the Afghan people to boycott the election.

Some 2,500 candidates are competing for 249 seats in Afghanistan's lower house of parliament.

The Taliban's threat to derail the election follows plans by the government of Afghan President Hamid Karzai to open peace talks.

On Saturday, Mr. Karzai called the creation of the High Peace Council a "significant step" in efforts to end a war that is nearing the end of its ninth year. The council is to include former members of the Taliban, leading Afghan civilians and women.

The council's formation was approved by Afghan leaders and tribal elders in June. But so far the Taliban has shown little interest in any peace negotiations.

And Taliban attacks continue. NATO says two coalition soldiers have been killed in insurgent violence in southern Afghanistan.

One of them belonged to the 1st Battalion of the Royal Regiment of Scotland. The second was not identified.

A Japanese journalist, freelancer Kosuke Tsuneoka, who was reportedly detained by insurgents in the northern Afghan city of Kunduz several months ago has been released and is now at the Japanese embassy in Kabul. He is said to be in good condition.

Some information for this report was provided by AP, AFP and Reuters.