Continued from page 1

The string of attacks in the north shows the Taliban and their allies are capable of fomenting instability beyond their traditional strongholds in the east and south, which is the focus of U.S.-led military operations. Provinces in the north previously had been largely spared the violence that have affected provinces such Helmand and Kandahar in the south and Logar, Wardak, Kunar and Khost in the east.

Also Thursday, a candidate in next month’s parliamentary elections said 10 of her campaign workers were kidnapped while traveling in the western province of Herat.

Fawzya Galani said she lost contact with the group at about 6 p.m. Wednesday. Villagers told her armed men had stopped the group and driven off in their two vehicles, Ms. Galani said.

Local district chief Nisar Ahmad Popal said it wasn’t clear whether the kidnappers were political rivals or members of the Taliban, who are seeking to sabotage the Sept. 18 elections for 249 seats in the lower house of parliament.

Citing security concerns, Afghanistan’s electoral commission has reduced the number of voting sites for the elections by almost 1,000 to 5,897. It said Thursday that number could drop further if voter safety could not be ensured.

Many Afghans say they plan not to vote, either because of insurgent threats or out of disgust with rampant corruption among government officials.

In eastern Ghazni province’s Andar district, two Afghan guards working for a private security company were killed in a Taliban attack on a supply convoy, provincial police chief Zarawar Khan Zahid said.

Two attackers were killed, including a senior regional commander, Mullah Mohmmadi, Mr. Zahid said.

NATO has been stepping up operations ahead of the elections and said Thursday it had detained several insurgents in Khost province along the Pakistan border while pursuing senior members of the Haqqani network, an Islamist militant group with deep links to al Qaeda.

The alliance said Afghan and coalition forces captured two Haqqani and several Taliban leaders during 35 separate operations this week.

NATO also reported that three Afghan civilians were killed Wednesday by a homemade bomb in Kandahar’s Arghandab district, a Taliban stronghold that has had a growing coalition presence.

Two Taliban commanders were also killed Wednesday in fighting with a joint Afghan-Taliban force in neighboring Uruzgan province, along with 12 regular insurgent fighters, the Afghan National Police reported.

Associated Press Writer Mirwais Khan in Kandahar contributed to this report.