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At least seven NATO troops killed in wave of Taliban attacks
Seven US troops have been killed in Afghanistan in a string of violent attacks over the weekend, as officials uncovered the bodies of five workers who were campaigning for a female candidate in Herat.
AFP - Seven US soldiers and a candidate for Afghanistan's September polls have been killed in a wave of weekend attacks, officials said Sunday as police found the bodies of five campaign workers.
Two soldiers were killed Sunday in separate attacks, the NATO-led International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) said in a statement.
Five troops were killed in other militant violence in the violence-wracked south and east of the country which is hardest hit by the Taliban-led insurgency now reaching the end of its ninth and most deadly year.
A US military spokesman said all seven soldiers were US nationals.
International troops have suffered escalating casualties as they step up the fight against a Taliban insurgency which has become increasingly deadly since the militants were ousted from power in a US-led invasion in late 2001.
The number of foreign soldiers killed in the Afghan war so far this year has now reached 472, compared with 521 who died during all of 2009, according to an AFP tally based on a count by the independent www.icasualties.org website.
There are about 141,000 US and NATO troops deployed in Afghanistan to fight the insurgency and protect the US-backed government of President Hamid Karzai.
Afghanistan is due to hold its second post-Taliban parliamentary elections on September 18 amid fears that attacks by Taliban might disrupt the vote.
Candidate Abdul Manan, running for a seat in the western province of Herat, was shot dead Saturday in an attack blamed on the militants, an official said.
The Taliban are accused of being responsible for the deaths of two other candidates since the launch of the election campaign in early July.
Police Sunday also found the bodies of five members of the campaign team of female candidate Fawzya Galani, days after 10 of them were abducted by the Taliban, officials said.
The Taliban had claimed responsibility for the kidnapping in Herat province on Wednesday.
"We have found five of the abducted members of Ms. Galani's campaign team. They were dumped on the side of a mountain," said Nisar Ahmad Popal, the chief of Adrskan district where the bodies were found.
"We don't know where the other five are," he said.
In another Taliban-linked incident, police in the northern province of Faryab said four women working for a local group treating drug addicts were snatched by gunmen on Saturday.
Provincial police chief Khalilullah Andarabi blamed the abduction on "armed opposition groups," a term used for the Taliban and other militants.
ISAF said eight Afghan civilians were also killed in a wave of attacks on Saturday including a suicide bombing.
Fifteen other civilians were wounded in six incidents, mostly in the south and east, the force said.
NATO troops backed by Afghan security forces killed up to 15 insurgents in a battle in the eastern province of Paktia late on Saturday, ISAF said.
Separately, police Sunday shot dead two suicide bombers as they headed towards the office of the governor of Farah province in the southwest.
No one else was hurt in the incident, provincial police chief Mohammad Faqir Askar said.
Violence has picked up in recent months as the Taliban insurgency has gathered pace in the face of a troop "surge" by international forces.
The interior ministry, releasing monthly statistics, said 229 civilians, 124 police and 618 militants were killed between July 23 and August 22, coinciding with Afghanistan's last solar-based month.