Taliban fighter have killed a civilian and a border policeman before being shot dead by police during an attack on the home of a well-known provincial police chief in southern Afghanistan, according to officials.
The six attackers, all of whom were wearing suicide vests, launched Sunday's attack from a school building near General Abdul Razeq's house in the Spin Boldak district of Kandahar province, but were shot before they could enter the residence, Zia Durani, provincial police spokesman, said.
"General Abdul Razeq was in his house at the time of the attack" but was unharmed, Durani said.
Qari Yousef Ahmadi, Taliban spokesman, claimed responsibility for the attack in a statement sent to the media. The Taliban frequently carries out suicide bombings and other attacks against Afghan and NATO forces. Abdul Razeq is a well-known police chief and prominent anti-Taliban figure in Kandahar province, and has survived several attacks. In the capital Kabul, meanwhile, hundreds of protesters took to the streets on Sunday in an anti-Taliban demonstration organised by activists and civil society groups, with similar protests held in the northern Balkh and western Herat provinces. The protesters chanted against the recent killing of civilians in Taliban attacks.
On Friday Taliban fighters halted three minibuses in the western Ghor province and shot 14 passengers on the side of the road, including three women, after identifying them as Hazara Shias. The Taliban, like other Sunni-led groups, view the country's minority Shia community as apostates, and have targeted Hazaras in the past with suicide bombings and other attacks.
In another development on Friday, the Taliban's reclusive leader Mullah Mohammad Omar gave warning against signing the agreement in a message released in honour of the Eid al-Fitr holiday marking the end of the Muslim holy month of Ramadan.
"We believe the war in Afghanistan will come to an end when all foreign invaders pull out of Afghanistan and a holy Islamic and independent regime prevails here," the message said. It further said that the presence of even a limited number of foreign troops would mean a "continuation of occupation and the war".
Toppled from power by the 2001 US-led invasion, the Taliban soon regrouped as an insurgency battling NATO troops and Afghan security forces.
The US has pressed Afghanistan to agree to a bilateral security pact that would allow thousands of American troops to remain past the end of the year to train Afghan security forces and assist with counterterrorism operations.
Afghan President Hamid Karzai has refused to sign the agreement. The two candidates in last month's disputed presidential run-off have said they will sign the pact, but the final results in the election have been delayed amid allegations of fraud.