Taliban insurgents attack Afghan provincial police chief's house

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Taliban insurgents attacked the home of a well-known provincial police chief in restive southern Afghanistan on Sunday, killing a civilian and a border policeman before being shot dead by police, officials said.

The six gunmen, all of whom were wearing suicide vests, launched the attack from a school building near Gen. Abdul Razeq's house in the Spin Boldak district of Kandahar province, but were shot dead before they could enter the residence, provincial police spokesman Zia Durani said.

"Gen. Abdul Razeq was in his house at the time of the attack," but was unharmed, Durani added.

Taliban spokesman Qari Yousef Ahmadi claimed responsibility for the attack in a statement sent to the media. The Taliban frequently carry 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 in an anti-Taliban demonstration organized 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 gunmen halted three minibuses in the western Ghor province and shot dead 14 passengers on the side of the road, including three women, after identifying them as Hazara Shiites.

The Taliban, like other Sunni extremist groups, view the country's minority Shiite community as apostates, and have targeted Hazaras in the past with suicide bombings and other attacks.

Ousted from power by the 2001 U.S.-led invasion, the Taliban soon regrouped as an insurgency battling NATO troops and Afghan security forces.

The United States 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 runoff have said they will sign the pact, but the final results in the election have been delayed amid allegations of fraud.

The Taliban's reclusive leader Mullah Mohammad Omar on Friday warned against signing the agreement in a message released in honor 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," he said, adding that the presence of even a limited number of foreign troops would mean a "continuation of occupation and the war."