By AMIR SHAH, Associated Press
KABUL, Afghanistan (AP) — Four Afghan policemen were killed on Friday as the Taliban have stepped up their attacks against government and NATO troops to undermine the U.S.-led coalition's effort to build up Afghan forces so they can take the lead in the next few years.
The policemen died in three separate incidents in Helmand province in southern Afghanistan, according to police officials.
One was killed when the Taliban attacked in Marjah district. A second died when a roadside bomb he was searching for exploded in Washer district. Two others were killed when their vehicle struck a roadside mine in Gereskh district.
In neighboring Kandahar province, a fuel tanker overturned and caught fire on Friday, killing seven people, police said.
Kandahar provincial police chief Gen. Abdul Razaq said three other civilians were seriously wounded in the morning incident in Panjwai district.
The Taliban claimed they fired a rocket at the fuel tanker, causing it to explode. But Razaq said no rockets were fired.
He said the tanker caught on fire after it overturned and that a passing car was also set ablaze.
In northeastern Afghanistan, meanwhile, a suicide bomber assassinated the head of the peace council in Kunar province, which works to bring Taliban fighters to the negotiating table.
The bomber set off his explosives near Sayed Fazelullah Wahidi, who was walking home from Friday prayers with his son and a bodyguard in Watapoor district, said Gen. Ewaz Mohammad Nazari, the chief of police in Kunar.
"The suicide bomber came up to him and greeted him and then blew himself up," Nazari said.
He said Wahidi was killed at the scene. His son died in a hospital where he and the bodyguard were treated for their injuries, Nazari said.
Separately, the coalition reported the deaths of two NATO service members.
One was killed Thursday in a roadside bomb explosion in the south. The other died Friday following an insurgent attack in eastern Afghanistan. No other details were disclosed.
So far this year, 99 NATO troops have died in Afghanistan.
Also, the coalition reported that an unmanned aerial vehicle crashed Friday in northern Afghanistan. The cause of the crash was being investigated. NATO said no one was injured.
The unmanned aircraft went down near Pul-e-Khumri, the capital of Baghlan province, according to an Associated Press reporter at the scene.
The Taliban said in an email that their fighters shot down the aircraft, but the coalition said initial reports indicate that there was no enemy activity in the area at the time of the crash.
Associated Press Writer Mirwais Khan contributed to this report.