KABUL, Afghanistan -- A kidnapped British engineer was found dead yesterday, and two bodies discovered in Afghanistan's southern desert were identified as missing Japanese tourists, raising fears that elections later this month may be disrupted by militant violence.
Taliban-led rebels have vowed to disrupt the Sept. 18 poll, the next key step toward democracy after a quarter century of war and civil strife.
In the past six months, a surge in fighting has left more than 1,100 people dead, including at least four elections workers and four candidates.
US-led coalition troops raiding a Taliban hide-out in the Afghan mountains found the body of a Briton believed to be David Addison, Britain's Foreign Office said yesterday.
The bodies of the two Japanese were found Thursday in the desert near a road leading from Kandahar to the Pakistani border. They had been missing since Aug. 8, when they crossed into Afghanistan from Pakistan on holiday.
Autopsies indicated the dead were Jun Fukusho, 44, and Shinobu Hasegawa, 30, teachers from Hiroshima, in western Japan, believed shot in the head at point-blank range up to a month ago, the Japan's Foreign Ministry said.
The governor of Kandahar Province, Asadullah Khalid, said he thought it could be the work of criminals. Two Taliban commanders had said earlier that they had not killed the two.
Kim Howells, the British foreign office minister, said the Briton was found in western Farah Province during a search-and-rescue operation by coalition forces.
''With great sadness, I have to report that in the course of the operation, they found a body, which is presumed to be that of David" Addison, Howells said in a statement.
Addison and his interpreter were working for a foreign company refurbishing the road from southern Kandahar to the western city of Herat. They were abducted when militants attacked his convoy Wednesday, killing three policemen guarding them.
On Thursday, suspected Taliban rebels ambushed a car in Kandahar and abducted local government chief Nawad Khan, independent election candidate Mohammed Yaqubi, and three others, said the local police chief, Bacha Khan.