Afghan Police Raided

Relatives of three Afghan police officers killed by suspected Taliban, wait around the bodies of their relatives at Kandahar's main hospital, Saturday, April 15, 2006. Afghan security forces backed by coalition helicopters attacked a suspected Taliban hideout in southern Afghanistan, setting off an intense gunbattle that killed 41 rebels, a provincial governor said Saturday.(AP Photo/Rahim Faiez)
Suspected Taliban militants attacked two police checkposts along a highway in southern Afghanistan, sparking fighting that left 14 fighters dead, police said Sunday.

The clashes in Zabul province followed heavy fighting Friday in neighboring Kandahar province that officials say left 41 militants and six police dead - the biggest battle in a recent upsurge of rebel violence that threatens the war-battered nation's new democracy.

About 30 Taliban attacked the police posts late Saturday in Qalat district, about 60 miles northeast of Kandahar, Zabul police chief Ghulam Nabi Malakhail said.

There were no casualties among the police and the Taliban retrieved the bodies of their slain comrades after the fighting that lasted about 30 minutes, Malakhail said.

Qari Yousaf Ahmadi, a purported Taliban spokesman, claimed responsibility for the attack, saying at least seven police were killed and the Taliban burned one of the police posts.

It wasn't immediately possible to verify his claim, nor the death toll provided by police.

The police were deployed at the posts to guard the main highway linking the capital Kabul with Kandahar, a former Taliban stronghold.

Kandahar, neighboring Helmand and Zabul provinces are located in a swathe of southern Afghanistan where the Taliban have kept up a stubborn series of attacks against the Afghan government and U.S-led coalition forces that are trying to hunt them.

On Saturday, suspected Taliban attacked the coalition and Afghan army troops with small arms and rocket propelled grenades in Uruzgan, north of Kandahar, sparking a gunbattle that left three attackers dead, the U.S. military said in a statement.

No Afghan or coalition forces were injured, it said.

A U.S. military campaign ousted the Taliban from power in late 2001 for harboring al Qaeda.

The Taliban have called for a jihad -or Mulsim holy war - against the foreign troops in Afghanistan and the country's U.S.-backed President Hamid Karzai's government.

Militants' attacks often increase with the onset of spring when snows melt on high mountain passes that the fighters use for hiding in or for moving from one place to another.

In Friday's fighting in Sartak, a village about 25 miles southwest of Kandahar, Afghan security forces backed by U.S.-led coalition helicopters attacked a suspected Taliban hide-out, sparking an intense gunbattle that left 41 rebels and six police dead.

Kandahar Gov. Asadullah Khalid said that the attack was launched following intelligence reports that the militants in the village were preparing to attack Kandahar.

Residents said they had appealed in vain for between 50 and 60 militants to leave their village days before Friday's fighting erupted.

Also Saturday, suspected Taliban shot and killed a district administrator in Helmand.

Abdul Majid, the administrator of Baghran district, was going to his office when assailants opened fire on his vehicle, killing him and wounding two guards, said Ghulam Muhiddin, spokesman for the provincial governor.
By Rahim Faiez