Thirty Afghan militants killed in pre-election violence

Up to 30 insurgents have been killed in fighting ahead of this week’s parliamentary elections in Afghanistan, Nato and Afghan officials said today.

Nato said that up to 23 militants were killed in action in southern Helmand province yesterday, and three died in eastern Wardak province today.

An Afghan official added that four Taliban militants were also killed today in south-eastern Zabul province.

There were no reports of casualties among the joint Nato-Afghan forces.

Attacks and clashes are rising amid an allied offensive aimed at suppressing the continuing Taliban insurgency.

Meanwhile, tensions are rising ahead of Saturday’s parliamentary elections. The Taliban has vowed to target polling stations and warned Afghans not to participate in what it calls a sham vote.

Nato said the coalition forces killed three “known manufacturers” of improvised explosive devices in Wardak, just west of the capital Kabul, today.

“The removal of these criminals effectively removed a potential threat to the people of Afghanistan,” Lt Col Dan Morgan, regional command-east chief of operations, said in a statement. “We will continue to work with our Afghan partners to provide a secure environment for the upcoming elections.”

The insurgents want to oust the pro-West Afghan government and drive foreign troops out of the country, and have sought to sabotage all aspects of the political process, including elections.

The government and its Western allies hope the ballot for the lower house of parliament will help consolidate the country’s shaky democracy, eventually leading to the withdrawal of the roughly 140,000 Nato-led foreign troops in the country.

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