Two killed in suicide attack as Afghans protest US raid

A suicide attack on a police station in western Afghanistan killed two people, while at least 200 villagers protested against an operation by US forces which, they claimed, killed four civilians, officials said Saturday, dpa reported.

A suicide bomber who had strapped explosives around his body detonated himself inside the police station in Zaranj, provincial capital of south-western Nimruz province Saturday, killing a policeman and a civilian, said provincial governor Gholam Dastagir Azaad.

Three other police were wounded in the blast, which he claimed was carried out by Taliban militants who have carried out hundreds of suicide attacks after the ouster of their regime in a US-led military invasion in late 2001.

Meanwhile, at least 200 villagers blocked a road in south-eastern province of Khost to protest the killing of four Afghan civilians by US forces on Friday night, a senior police official said.

The protesters were carrying the coffins of the four dead men, who were killed in Shegi village of Khost city by US soldiers, Gholam Mahroof, a tribal elder said.

Mahroof said that angry villagers threw stones at a NATO convoy passing by the area before ending their demonstration after the local authorities promised them of a thorough investigation.

US forces, however, said the four killed were insurgents linked to Haqqani network, an associate group of Taliban militants.

The military said in a statement that the soldiers killed the men after the militants attacked them with small-arms fire upon reaching the targeted compound. Five other militants including a wounded fighter were detained in the operation, it said.

"A search of the compound revealed weapons, explosives and improvised explosive device-making materials," it added.

Civilian casualties have become a delicate issue in Afghanistan. The mounting deaths at the hand of foreign forces have created a clear rift between the Afghan government and its international military backers.

More than 2,000 civilians were among over 5,000 people - mostly insurgents - killed in Afghanistan last year.

Three civilians were killed in southern Zabul province on Saturday, when the vehicle they were travelling in was struck by a roadside bomb blast, Gulab Shah Alikhail, deputy provincial governor said.

The dead had been working with a private road construction company, he said.

Separately, three militants were killed in two operations by Afghan police and US-led coalition forces in southern Kandahar province on Saturday, a US military statement said.

Taliban-led insurgency has been intensified in the past recent weeks as the weather warmed in southern and eastern regions of the war-wracked country.

More than 70,000 international forces, deployed from 41 nations, are stationed in Afghanistan to battle the resurgent Taliban, who have steadily gained power in the past three years.

Some 17,000 additional US soldiers are expected to join the battlefield later this year.

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