Taliban Kidnaps at Least 60, Kills 7 in Southern Afghanistan

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The Taliban insurgents have captured the district center of Kohistan in northern Faryab province of Afghanistan, local officials said Sunday.

At least eight police officers were killed in separate battles against Taliban militants, who have stepped up their attacks in the north and west of the country laying siege to district headquarters, said Mohammad Mustafa Moseni.

The area is remote, and telephone communication is sporadic, he said in a telephone interview from the provincial capital of Ferozkoh. It's believed all the dead are military or police personnel, he said.

"We have not killed or kidnapped any civilians", the Taliban said in a statement.

The strike, the latest setback in Washington's efforts to pacify the country, hit a compound in Gereshk district, large parts of which are under Taliban control.

The area in which the fighting occurred is tucked inside a mountainous region where access is restricted and telephone contact is unsteady.

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This latest spell of intense clashes broke out earlier this week when the Afghan National Security Forces, backed by USA air power, managed to reclaim the restive Nawa district in the Helmand province after over a year when the Taliban overrun it.

The Afghan Defense Ministry, meanwhile, said the districts had not fallen, insisting that government forces were still locked in fighting with the militants.

Faryab is among the relatively volatile provinces in northern Afghanistan where the Taliban insurgents and militants belonging to the other militant groups are actively operating, including the militants belonging to the Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan.

Acting interior ministry spokesman Najeeb Danish gave a lower death toll than the provincial officials. He confirmed seven people had been killed. He said police have taken up positions about 8km from the district headquarters while they wait for reinforcements to launch a counterattack.

No one has claimed responsibility for the attacks, nor is it known whether any ransom demands have been made.

NATO's mission in Afghanistan issued a statement.

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