Insurgents gun down Afghan official, policeman; NATO says airstrike killed al-Qaida operative

KABUL, Afghanistan (AP) — Insurgents assassinated an Afghan government official and a policeman Monday in western Afghanistan, and five civilians died when their vehicle hit a roadside bomb elsewhere in the west, officials said.

Two insurgents on a motorcycle shot and killed the government official in a bazaar in the Gulistan district of Farah province, NATO said. The policeman returned fire, but was killed by the insurgents. NATO did not identify the government official.

In neighboring Herat province, five members of one family were killed and two others were wounded in a blast after their vehicle hit a mine, said Lal Mohammad Omarzai, deputy governor of Shindand district.

Also on Monday, NATO said an al-Qaida operative was among those killed in an airstrike Sunday on a pickup truck that was fleeing the site of a gunfight with police in Kunduz province in northern Afghanistan. The military coalition previously said that two insurgents were killed.

NATO identified one of the dead Monday as Abu Baqir, a Taliban sub-commander and al-Qaida group leader. There were reports that he was housing four potential suicide bombers for upcoming attacks on the city of Kunduz, NATO said in a statement.

U.S. officials have said that there are a small number of al-Qaida operatives in Afghanistan.

In October 2009, national security adviser James Jones said there were fewer than 100 fighters operating in the country and said they had no bases in Afghanistan or ability to launch attacks on the West.

In eastern Afghanistan, an unmanned aerial vehicle crashed Monday and was immediately recovered by NATO forces.

NATO said the cause of Monday's crash in Khas Kunar district of Kunar province is under investigation.

Separately, NATO reported that Afghan and coalition forces destroyed nearly 900 kilograms (2,000 pounds) of narcotics during an operation Sunday in the Maiwand district of Kandahar province in the south. The joint force detained two men who were unloading narcotics from a vehicle and then destroyed the cache of hashish and opium.

Troops are working to disrupt drug trafficking networks that bankroll insurgents and terrorist groups in Afghanistan.