Taliban strike back with deadly assaults

The Taliban have hit back in Afghanistan with two assaults involving hundreds of anti-government fighters, officials said. At least 25 people were killed in the attacks on two police stations within hours of each other in the south-east.

The violence pushed the nationwide death toll of the past week towards three figures, 20 months after forces led by the United States threw out the Taliban government in response to the 11 September terrorist attacks on America.

The assaults are part of a surge of guerrilla attacks attributed to the Taliban, al-Qa'ida and supporters of the warlord and former premier Gulbuddin Hekmatyar. In the first, guerrillas armed with rockets, heavy machine-guns and rocket-propelled grenades stormed into Barmal, leaving 22 people reported dead, seven Afghan policemen and 15 fighters. In the second, at a village to the south called Tarway, a 300-strong gang burnt down a police station, killed three policemen and took four others hostage, the Afghan Foreign Ministry said.

Afghanistan is pressing Pakistan to clamp down on the militants, claiming they slip back and forth across the border, close to the latest bloodshed. The issue is certain to dominate talks when Khursheed Kasuri, Pakistan's Foreign Minister, visits Kabul this week.

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