In Afghanistan, officials say a district police chief and nine of his officers were ambushed and killed in remote Zabul province. The local police commander is disputing a claim of responsibility made by Taleban insurgents.

A group of attackers killed police chief Yar Mohammed and his escort Wednesday on a road in the rural southern province.

Some press reports attributed the attack to Afghanistan's former Taleban regime, which since their fall from power in 2001, have been waging an insurgency against the new government.

But Mr. Mohammed's immediate superior, Provincial Police Chief Mohammed Ayub, told VOA the attack stemmed from a rivalry between the district chief and another local militia commander.

After the defeat of the Taleban, the transitional government temporarily placed members of the victorious Afghan militias in charge of security throughout much of the country.

While the interior ministry is training a professional national police force to take up these duties, former militia leaders are still responsible for law enforcement across most of Afghanistan.

Vikram Parekh, senior Afghan analyst for the policy institute International Crisis Group, says some of these commanders pose a threat to the very residents they are meant to protect. In some cases, he says, the militia leaders are engaged in criminal activities.

?It is at this very local level that most of the sorts of predation, extortion, looting, assaults take place,? Mr. Parekh said.

He says small-time warlords pose a bigger threat than the Taleban-led insurgents, in terms of creating insecurity for Afghans.

Security is a big challenge for Afghanistan as it attempts to register an estimated 10.5 million adult citizens for general elections, scheduled for September.