5 Dutch Soldiers Wounded in Afghanistan

KABUL, Afghanistan (AP) — Taliban militants killed two policemen and destroyed a remote government office in central Afghanistan, as five Dutch troops were wounded in a clash in the country’s south, officials said Wednesday.

Dozens of militants armed with heavy weapons attacked the Ajristan district center in Ghazni province late Tuesday, burning the building and killing two policemen, Ghazni police chief Ali Shah Ahmadzai said. The remaining officers fled into a nearby village, he said.

Police reinforcements, backed by the U.S.-led coalition, were sent to the remote area on Wednesday, Ahmadzai said.

Taliban routinely attack remote police and government offices, but are rarely able to control these buildings for long after police or army reinforcements arrive.

In southern Afghanistan, five Dutch soldiers serving with NATO’s International Security Assistance Force were wounded Tuesday night in Uruzgan province after militants opened fire on them, the Dutch Defense Ministry said in a statement.

The five wounded troops were transferred to a Dutch hospital in the force’s main base near Tirin Kot, Camp Holland. Their injuries ranged from grazes and back injuries to broken bones, the ministry statement said.

The United Nations reported a nearly 30 percent increase in violence this year in Afghanistan, with suicide bombings causing a high number of civilian casualties.

The report said Afghanistan is averaging 550 violent incidents a month, up from an average of 425 last year. It said three-fourths of suicide bombings are targeting international and Afghan security forces, but suicide bombers also killed 143 civilians through August.

An Associated Press count of insurgency-related deaths, meanwhile, reached 5,086 in the first nine months of this year. AP counted 4,019 deaths in 2006, based on violent incidents reported by Western and Afghan officials. That was the first year AP compiled such figures.

The AP tally for this year includes more than 3,500 militants killed and more than 650 civilians dead from either insurgent violence or U.S. or NATO attacks.

Nearly 180 international soldiers have been killed. That includes 85 U.S. military personnel, nearing the total of 98 American deaths reported by the Pentagon for all of 2006.

Insurgents have staged a record number of suicide attacks this year — more than 100, including the two bus bombings in Kabul since Saturday that killed 43 people between them.

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