HERAT, Afghanistan (Reuters) - Taliban militants killed 15 Afghan guards working for a private U.S. security firm in an ambush in the west of the country on Tuesday, the provincial governor said.
Violence has surged in Afghanistan over the last year, up around 25 percent from 2006, with neither the Taliban insurgents, nor the Afghan government and Western troops gaining any significant advantage.
The Taliban launched the ambush near the town of Bala Boluk in the western province of Farah, killing 15 guards working for the U.S. firm US Protection and Investigations (USPI), said Farah governor Mohauddin Baluch.
Nine guards were wounded and a number were missing after the attack on the main highway that runs from the southern city of Kandahar to the city of Herat in the west. Six Taliban fighters were also killed, Baluch said.
The Taliban claimed responsibility for the attack and said they had abducted 12 security guards, but said only two of their own fighters had been killed.
Elsewhere, U.S.-led coalition forces killed “several” militants in an air strike targeting a Taliban commander in the Kajaki district of Helmand province, in the south of Afghanistan.
Afghan and coalition forces followed up the strike with a search of compounds in the district and killed several more.
Kajaki is the site of the biggest U.S. aid project in southern Afghanistan, to repair a dam and hydro-electric power station built by the United States in the 1970s.
But the Taliban have surrounded a small British force at the dam, preventing large turbines needed to power it from being moved in.
The NATO-led International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) does not give Taliban casualty figures and the separate coalition force has also recently changed its policy on giving out the number of Taliban it kills, instead saying several were killed.
Reporting by Sharafuddin Sharafyar; Writing by Jon Hemming; Editing by Sanjeev Miglani