British aid worker killed in Afghanistan

October 20, 2008 4:10:17 AM PDT
Gunmen on a motorbike killed a South African aid worker in the Afghan capital on Monday, while NATO-led troops assaulted an insurgent stronghold in a two-day battle that killed at least 20 militants, officials said.The South African woman worked with handicapped Afghans and was killed in the western part of Kabul as she was walking alone around 8 a.m., said Najib Samsoor, a district police chief.

The attack adds to a growing sense of insecurity in Kabul. The capital is now blanketed in police checkpoints. Embassies, military bases and the U.N. are erecting cement wall barriers to guard against suicide bombings.

Kidnappings targeting wealthy Afghans have long been a problem in Kabul, but attacks against Westerners in the city and surrounding provinces have also increased recently. In mid-August, Taliban militants killed three women working for the U.S. aid group International Rescue Committee while they were driving in Logar, a province south of Kabul.

Meanwhile, assault helicopters dropped NATO troops into Jalrez district of Wardak province on Thursday, leading to a two-day battle involving airstrikes in which more than 20 militants were killed, the military alliance said in a statement Monday.

Wardak province, just 40 miles west of Kabul, has become an insurgent stronghold on the doorsteps of the capital.

Militants have expanded their traditional bases in the country's south and east ? on the border with Pakistan ? and have gained territory in the provinces surrounding Kabul, a worrying development for Afghan and NATO troops.

Those advances are part of the reason that top U.S. military officials have warned that the international mission to defeat the Taliban is in peril, and why NATO generals have called for a sharp increase in the number of troops here.

Some 65,000 international troops now operate in Afghanistan, including around 32,000 Americans.

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