Aid worker among 12 killed by Taliban


Six Afghan soldiers and a driver for a US aid agency have been killed in a raid by suspected Taliban guerrillas. The fundamentalist group said it had killed five government soldiers in a separate attack.

The death toll would be the biggest for a single day attributed to a resurgent Taliban guerrilla movement in many months, although local government officials denied the latter incident had been an attack and gave no casualty figure for it.

In Kabul, meanwhile, state television said police had discovered five Soviet-designed rockets primed to fire in a district just south of the capital that was once a base of a warlord who used to bombard the city with rockets.

The attack that killed the aid worker from Mercy Corps came just before dawn on a remote district headquarters in Deshu in the troubled southern province of Helmand not far from the Pakistani border, the deputy provincial police chief said.

"Six army soldiers and a driver for Mercy Corps lost their lives in the incident, which happened after morning prayers," Mohammad Ayoub told Reuters.

He said the soldiers were killed in a gunbattle resisting the raid. He did not know if any of the attackers, whom he described as Taliban guerrillas, had been killed.

Rod Volway, head of the Mercy Corps office in the neighbouring province of Kandahar, confirmed that a driver for the agency, Raz Mohammad, had been killed.

He said three Afghan employees of the agency had been in Deshu conducting an assessment for an agricultural project. The two others were safe and Mercy Corps was withdrawing them and two other teams from the area.

Volway said that from the reports he had, it appeared the district office, not the aid workers, had been the target. Mercy Corps has headquarters in the United States and Scotland.

Separately in Kandahar province Taliban guerrillas said they had killed five Afghan government soldiers and wounded three in a rocket attack on their vehicle some 25 km (15 miles) north of the town of Spin Boldak, also near the Pakistani border.