Afghans Working For U.S. Military Executed

Afghans rest behind concertina wire at a square in downtown Kandahar City, Tuesday, Oct 17, 2006. AP Photo/Rodrigo Abd

Gunmen ambushed a car carrying Afghan civilians working on a remote U.S. military base in eastern Afghanistan and killed eight of them execution-style, police said Friday.

The killings came as a statement, purportedly from fugitive Taliban leader Mullah Omar, urged militants to step up attacks on Afghan and foreign troops and told NATO to quit Afghanistan.

The ambush victims, who worked for the U.S. military as laborers in the mountainous Korangal area of Kunar province, were killed Thursday while driving home from work, said Abdul Saboor, Kunar's deputy police chief.

In other developments:

  • Following a strategy used by Iraqi insurgents, Taliban militants are increasingly targeting top government officials in Afghanistan, which has seen a spike in assassinations and attempted killings over the last six weeks. The attacks are forcing officials to travel with more bodyguards and set up more checkpoints. Some government employees have stopped going to work, fearing for their lives.

  • The Dutch Cabinet decided Friday to keep 130 troops in Afghanistan who had been due to return home, effectively increasing its presence in combat-heavy southern Afghanistan. In all, the Dutch have 1,670 soldiers in Afghanistan, mostly on a peace and reconstruction mission in the southern province of Uruzgan.

    Gunmen stopped the civilian workers' car, searched them and took about $6,000 before gunning them down, said Salehzai Didar, Kunar's governor. Two workers escaped, he said.

    "This was a shocking attack against these poor people," Saboor said.

    Saboor did not identify the attackers, other than to describe them as "the enemy."

    Al Qaeda and Taliban insurgents operate in eastern Afghan regions bordering Pakistan.

    Afghanistan this year has faced its deadliest surge in violence since U.S.-led forces ousted the Taliban regime five years ago for hosting Osama bin Laden.

    The statement from Omar, forwarded by e-mail to The Associated Press by Muhammad Hanif, who claims to speak for the hard-line militia, warned the Taliban would increase their attacks against foreign and Afghan troops in fighting that "would be a surprise to many."

    "I would again ask mujahideen (holy warriors) to intensify their attacks but they should avoid any harm to innocent people and children," said the statement, issued on the eve of the Muslim holiday of Eid al-Fitr, that marks the end of the fasting month of Ramadan.

    It wasn't possible to verify the statement's authenticity.

    The statement said NATO — which has in recent months taken control of security operations across Afghanistan from a U.S.-led coalition — should quit the country. It claimed the alliance was "losing their soldiers only for America."

    The statement also alleged that democracy in Afghanistan had failed and the Western-backed government of President Hamid Karzai was seeking an "exit."

    "I want to make it clear that the puppet of aggressors and his associates are searching for exit. We will never give them an exit. They will be brought to Islamic justice," it said.

    Omar's whereabouts remain a mystery. Karzai told the AP this week that the Taliban leader was hiding in the Pakistani city of Quetta. Pakistan says Omar is Afghanistan.

    U.S. and Afghan troops, meanwhile, raided a compound linked to homemade bomb makers early Friday, killing one suspected militant and detaining four others, the U.S.-led coalition said.

    During the operation in the eastern Khost province village of Bodakhel, one militant pointed a gun at soldiers, who shot him dead, a coalition statement said. Troops found explosives, detonation cords and multiple blasting caps.

    No U.S. or Afghan troops were hurt.

    A suicide bomber also attacked Afghan soldiers in the country's east. In Khost's Ismailkheil district, a suicide bomber on foot targeted an Afghan National Army patrol on Friday, wounding five soldiers and three civilians, said Mohammed Ayub, the provincial police chief.
    • David Morgan

      David Morgan is a senior editor at CBSNews.com and cbssundaymorning.com.

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