Taliban kills 25 citizens including tribal elders

The Taliban escalates its activity in Afghanistan. Fighting in central Afghanistan has left 25 people dead, including nine tribal elders who Taliban rebels kidnapped and executed, apparently in retaliation for the deaths of their own, a senior Afghan official said Friday.

The violence started Wednesday when insurgents attacked a police checkpoint in Uruzgan province's Tirin Kot district, and an ensuing hour-long gunbattle left seven rebels dead, provincial Gov. Jan Mohammed Khan was quoted as saying by the AP.

Then on Thursday, the militants assaulted Saiban, a nearby village, and kidnapped nine tribal elders and a 10-year-old boy, Khan said.

All nine were later killed and the boy was sent to the authorities with a message: If the police hand over the bodies of the seven slain rebels, the insurgents will release the bodies of the nine, Khan told The Associated Press.

The police did not respond to the offer.

"We have started operations and we are going to hunt them down," the governor said.

On Friday, rebels attacked another police post in Uruzgan and four officers and five insurgents were killed, Khan said.

The growing violence in Afghanistan has called into question the U.S. effort to establish peace in the country.

Suicide bombings, kidnappings and massive battleground engagements have wrongfooted Afghan authorities and the U.S.-led coalition, who had until recently been confidently predicting the Taliban were on their last legs.

A U.S. Chinook helicopter crashed in eastern Afghanistan Wednesday shot by a rocket killing all 16 on board, making American forces suffered their heaviest losses of the 3 1/2 year war.

The unprecedented bloodletting has many worried that American forces are falling into a quagmire in Afghanistan, even as they battle a ferocious insurgency in Iraq, says the AP.

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