Suspected Taliban Attack Kills Seven

Dozens of suspected Taliban (search) fighters attacked a government office in southern Afghanistan (search) early Thursday, killing six Afghan soldiers and an Afghan driver for an American aid organization, a provincial intelligence chief said.

The attack occurred at about 4 a.m. in Deshu district, about 110 miles south of Lashkargah, the capital of Helmand province.

At least six Afghans working for the American aid organization Mercy Corps (search) were conducting an agricultural survey in the region and sleeping in the building, said the intelligence chief, Dad Mohammed Khan.

The driver had been sleeping in the same room with the soldiers. None of the other Afghan Mercy Corps employees were injured, Khan said.

Khan said about 40 suspected Taliban fighters drove up in four vehicles, entered the district government offices and opened fire.

Khan gave no other details, but said his men were pursuing the attackers.

Abdullah, a Mercy Corps communications officer reached by satellite phone in the southern city of Kandahar, said only three of the agency's Afghan employees were staying in the compound at the time. Abdullah, like many Afghans, uses only one name.

He said the aid workers spent the night in Deshu because it was too late to return to Kandahar. Most aid workers do not travel on Afghan roads after dark — particularly in the country's volatile south.

Lashkargah is about 90 miles northwest of Kandahar, the stronghold of Afghanistan's former Taliban ruler, Mullah Mohammed Omar.

The Taliban, who were ousted in a U.S.-led war on terror in late 2001, have been waging a hit-and-run guerrilla war in the south and east of the country for over a year. In the last few months, they've stepped up attacks on foreign troops, government forces and aid workers.