Taliban free two hostages

The joint Afghan forces thwarted a planned militant ambush at the district chief’s compound, and the ensuing clash left nine militants dead, Saqib said. Authorities recovered the militants’ bodies and weapons, he said.

During a cleanup operation after the battle, a roadside bomb hit a police vehicle in the same district, killing five officers and wounding two others, Saqib said.

Violence in Afghanistan has risen sharply during the last two months. More than 3,700 people, mostly militants, have been killed in insurgency-related violence this year, according to an Associated Press tally of casualty figures provided by Western and Afghan officials.

Associated Press writer Noor Khan in Khandahar contributed to this report.

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