NATO says 5 insurgents, including one planning election attacks, killed in Afghanistan

KABUL, Afghanistan — A Taliban commander who planned rocket attacks on polling stations during elections next week and four other insurgents were killed in eastern Afghanistan, NATO said Sunday.

Meanwhile, hundreds of Afghans rallied for a third day Sunday to protest a plan by an American pastor to burn copies of the Quran, the Islamic holy book, despite his decision to call off the action that infuriated Muslims around the world.

Three people were injured Sunday as police opened fire on protesters who were trying to storm local government headquarters in Baraki Barak district in the eastern Logar province, district chief Mohammad Rahim Amin said. Throughout the country, many of the recent demonstrations against the proposed burning targeted the pro-Western Afghan government.

"I can say for sure that this was the work of the enemies of peace and stability in Afghanistan who are trying to use any opportunity to disrupt the security situation" in the country, Amin said.

The protesters, chanting "Death to America," burned tires, attacked several shops and set election candidates' posters on fire, he said.

NATO said the military alliance and Afghan forces killed the five insurgents Saturday night in a village compound in the eastern Nangarhar province. The insurgents were killed after they "displayed hostile intent" as the forces moved in on the compound, it said in a statement.

It said intelligence reports indicated the Taliban commander was planning to conduct rocket attacks on voting centers during the Sept. 18 parliamentary elections. The Taliban has vowed to target polling stations and warned Afghans not to participate in what it called a sham vote.

The government and its Western allies hope the elections for the lower house of parliament will help consolidate the country's fragile democracy, leading to the withdrawal of the roughly 140,000 NATO-led foreign troops in the country. But many Afghans and foreign observers fear the vote could turn bloody if the Taliban carries out its threats.

"The Afghan people deserve to cast their votes without fear of attacks from the insurgent groups," U.S. Army Col. Rafael Torres said in the NATO statement. "We are tracking them and taking action before they're able to carry out their plans."

NATO said the killed Taliban commander had participated in "intimidation campaigns and assassinations" and was directly linked to a February suicide bomb attack that killed Haji Zaman, a well-known tribal elder and warlord in eastern Afghanistan.