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Afghan leader sees peaceful poll, troops ambushed
Tue Aug 11, 2009 1:53pm EDT
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By Sayed Salahuddin and Paul Tait
KABUL (Reuters) - The Taliban will not be able to derail this month's Afghan elections, President Hamid Karzai vowed on Tuesday, as military officials said at least seven Afghan and foreign troops had been killed in the latest violence.
The Taliban have vowed to disrupt the August 20 presidential and provincial council polls, with attacks against candidates and campaign officials increasing amid a dramatic escalation of violence across the country in recent weeks.
But Karzai, who has ruled Afghanistan since the Taliban were toppled in 2001, urged Afghan voters to brush aside the threats despite brazen attacks by suicide bombers near Kabul and the deadly ambush of troops by militants in the past two days.
"The elections will pass peacefully ... the enemies of Afghanistan will try to create some chaos, (but) you don't bother about it," Karzai told supporters at a Kabul high school, saying it was vital for Afghans to vote.
The Taliban -- "Afghanistan's enemies," as officials often describe them -- have urged voters to boycott the poll and have issued threats of violence against voters in some areas, particularly in their southern and eastern strongholds.
With August following the pattern of July, the deadliest month of the 8-year-old-war for foreign troops, the U.S. military said three more Americans had been killed in three separate incidents in the volatile south since Saturday.
U.S. Chief Petty Officer Brian Naranjo, a media officer for U.S. and NATO-led troops, confirmed the nationality of the three International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) service members as Americans but gave no further details.
At least 41 U.S. troops were killed in July, when U.S. and British troops launched major offensives in southern Helmand province, part of U.S. President Barack Obama's new regional strategy to defeat the Taliban and stabilize Afghanistan.
In eastern Ghazni, about two hour's drive from Kabul, at least three Afghan soldiers and another foreign service member were killed in an ambush by Taliban fighters firing small arms and rocket-propelled grenades on Monday, military officials said.
Police in the area said as many as eight Afghans may have been killed in the attack on a convoy carrying supplies and election information to a remote district.
ISAF spokeswoman U.S. Captain Regina Gillis said there were "multiple" Afghan casualties. She said the dead foreign service member was not American but gave no other details.
In Warsaw, Poland's Defense Ministry said a Polish captain missing in action overnight had been found dead and four other soldiers had been wounded in a firefight. Poland has a provincial reconstruction team based in Ghazni.
Early this month the Taliban posted "night letters -- posters pasted in mosques and on village walls -- warning voters in Ghazni not to leave their homes on polling day.
Specific threats have also been issued in the south but the Taliban's influence in the previously more stable north and west has also been growing, U.S. commanders and research analysts have said in the past week, raising concerns about voter turnout. Continued...
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