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9 guards die in checkpoint attack

Nine border guards were killed when the T aliban stormed a police checkpoint in a north-western province of Afghanistan, officials said today.

The checkpoint in Badghis province, one of the most dangerous in Afghanistan, came under attack yesterday morning, said Mirwais Mirzakwal, spokesman for the provincial governor.

The Taliban raided the site in Bala Murghab district, killing nine border guards inside, he added. Before they fled the scene, the insurgents planted mines around the checkpoint.

Today, bomb squads were still removing the mines and trying to get to the bodies of the nine policemen, Mr Mirzakwal said.

In a gun battle that followed the checkpoint attack, four Taliban insurgents were killed and eight were wounded, he added.

The attack came just hours after the Taliban announced their spring offensive in Afghanistan, saying in a statement to media that it will begin tomorrow.

This fighting season will be the first time the insurgents' annual campaign against the Afghan government has taken place without Nato troops on the battlefield.

Foreign combat forces withdrew from Afghanistan at the end of last year, leaving international troops behind to monitor and instruct Afghan forces in the war against the insurgency.

Elsewhere, at least six civilians were killed when their rickshaw struck a roadside bomb in the south-west of the counry late last night, said Ahmad Arab, spokesman for the provincial governor in Nimroz province.

The dead were four children, a woman and a man who were all related.

Another civilian was injured in the bombing in Khashrod district, Mr Arab added.

No group has so far claimed responsibility for the attack.

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