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Bomb kills nine in Afghanistan

Taliban threaten to kill journalist

KABUL, Afghanistan -- A roadside bomb targeting a police convoy killed nine officers, including a local commander, and left one critically wounded yesterday in western Afghanistan, officials said.

Separately, the Afghan parliamentary speaker said the Taliban had threatened to kill an Italian journalist abducted in the country's lawless south unless the Italian government reviewed its policy toward Afghanistan.

The attack on the police convoy occurred in Farah Province's Bakwa district, which was briefly taken over by Taliban militants last month.

Western Afghanistan has been spared much of the violence rocking the south and east, but the area is on a major heroin smuggling route into Iran.

The Bakwa district police commander was among the nine killed, said provincial police spokesman Baryalai Khan.

One of the three vehicles in the convoy was destroyed, said Interior Ministry spokesman Zemerai Bashary.

Elsewhere in the same province, Taliban insurgents attacked a police post Sunday near the border with Iran, and the ensuing clash left two militants dead and one wounded, Bashary said.

The area around Bakwa also neighbors the volatile southern province of Helmand, where NATO last week launched its largest offensive yet, aimed at winning over a population long supportive of militant fighters.

In Helmand, US-led coalition and Afghan troops targeting an alleged antiaircraft weapons trafficker clashed with suspected Taliban insurgents yesterday in Gereshk district, killing two militants and lightly wounding two Afghan troops and one coalition soldier, the coalition said.

A local leader in Gereshk, Adil Khan, said the assault killed five civilians and wounded four others, including three children. The coalition said there were "no reported civilian casualties."

In neighboring Kandahar Province, Afghan troops arrested a "high-ranking suicide attack coordinator" in Panjwayi district, NATO's International Security Assistance Force said yesterday.

Near-daily suicide bombings and insurgent attacks plague the lawless southern region, a former Taliban stronghold where the government wields little power.

Italy's government, meanwhile, said it has been in contact with the kidnappers of an Italian reporter in Afghanistan and had reason to believe he was alive.