The New York Times, November 29, 2004

Taliban Suspected in Raid on Aid Group That Kills 3

Hundreds protest the arrest of a woman by American troops


KANDAHAR, Afghanistan, Nov. 28 - A large group of suspected Taliban fighters stormed the offices of an aid agency in southwestern Afghanistan on Sunday, killing three Afghan workers and wounding three security guards in its heaviest attack since the elections last month. A seventh man, also believed wounded, is missing and may have been kidnapped.

The police said that about 5 a.m., 20 to 30 gunmen raided the office of the Voluntary Association for the Rehabilitation of Afghanistan in Dilaram, on the main road across southwestern Afghanistan. The gunmen entered the building and shot six of the group's employees. including a cook who is now missing, as they slept, said Najmuddin Mojadeddi, executive director of the group.

He added that an Indian company building a road from Dilaram to Zaranj, on the Iranian border, was sharing the compound with his agency. Another man killed in the attack was working as a cook for the Indian company.

"No one other than the Taliban can do this work," he said.

The Taliban have attacked construction companies building roads and schools in the past, apparently in an effort to halt the progress of reconstruction.

A Taliban spokesman, Abdul Latif Hakimi, who has often claimed responsibility for attacks in the past, said the Taliban were behind this latest attack, Reuters reported.

The Taliban have made repeated attacks against Afghan aid agencies and local police and district offices in southern Afghanistan during the past year and a half.

Before the latest attack, 23 aid workers and another two dozen election workers and contractors had been killed this year. The group attacked Sunday also lost an engineer and a driver in an ambush by suspected Taliban fighters in September 2003.

But the violence had decreased during and since the election for president on Oct. 9. Three United Nations workers were kidnapped in October in the capital, Kabul, and were held for three weeks. A Taliban splinter group claimed responsibility and threatened to kill them, but the three were released last week unharmed, and the police suggested that the motive was more criminal than political.

In another incident in eastern Afghanistan on Sunday, hundreds of local tribesmen blocked the main road to protest the arrest of a woman by American troops during a raid on a house. Two men were also arrested, but it was the detention of the woman, and her removal from her home, that outraged the people of the conservative region, where women seldom leave their homes. The woman was later released, said a spokesman for the governor of Nangarhar Province, where the incident occurred.

A child was killed and a protester injured during the demonstrations, Reuters reported, but a spokesman for the provincial government was quoted as saying that security forces were not responsible for the death or the injury.

The United States military has been conducting raids for the past month to search for Al Qaeda sympathizers in Nangarhar. The Americans clashed with a group of Arabs in a house a week ago, killing four people. Nine people have been killed and 18 detained in the operation, a statement from the United States Embassy in Kabul said.

The statement confirmed that a woman was detained Nov. 27. The statement said the woman, the wife of a suspected "Al Qaeda facilitator," was held for less than 24 hours and kept in custody by Army women. Some suspected male terrorists have in the past worn the all-enveloping burka and carried children to try to evade capture, the statement said.

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