- Associated Press - Wednesday, December 1, 2010

KABUL, Afghanistan (AP) — Taliban militants seized 16 Afghan demining experts in an ambush near the Pakistan border Wednesday but released all but seven of them hours after the attack, officials said.

The attack took place near the Torkham border crossing in Nangarhar province, said Fazel Wahab, from OMAR, an Afghan humanitarian group working to find and dismantle homemade bombs.

The Taliban also set fire to two of the deminers’ vehicles, he said, adding that the released men have checked in with colleagues in the organization after their release.

Gen. Aminullah Amerkhail, border police commander for eastern Afghanistan, and Hazrat Mohammad, a spokesman for the Nangarhar provincial police chief, also confirmed the kidnapping.

Also Wednesday, Afghan election officials released the final election results for a province where the tally from the September poll had been delayed following claims of irregularities and voter intimidation.

The release was unchanged from the preliminary tally and completed the final election results for the country.

That latest count gives all 11 seats in Ghazni province to members of the Hazara ethnic group. Those results had angered many in the Pashtun majority group who said they had been disenfranchised.

Election commission Chairman Fazel Ahmad Manawi said Wednesday the results were “based on international standards.”

Election officials discarded 1.3 million Afghan ballots — nearly a quarter of the total — for fraud and disqualified 19 winning candidates across the country for cheating.

The United Nations said in a statement that it welcomed the announcement of the final results and commended election authorities for managing to complete the poll despite significant irregularities and fraud.

In southern Afghanistan, NATO said an Afghan-led coalition force killed more than 20 insurgents and destroyed more than 40 homemade bombs during a three-day operation this week.

After receiving tips from villagers, troops tracked the insurgents to an area of northwestern Kandahar province where they found several drug- and bomb-making facilities. They seized nearly 9 tons of explosives, 41 rifles, eight machine guns and ammunition and cleared 41 homemade bombs from the area, the coalition said.

Elsewhere in Kandahar province, coalition and Afghan troops this week located two weapons storage sites from which they seized nearly 10,000 rounds of ammunition, mortar rounds, five rocket-propelled grenades and bomb-making equipment.

On Tuesday, Afghan policemen arrested a man who had 2,200 pounds of ammonium nitrate, which is used to make bombs, in his tractor in the center of Zabul province in southeastern Afghanistan, the Afghan Interior Ministry said.

Associated Press writers Heidi Vogt and Elizabeth A. Kennedy contributed to this report from Kabul.


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