Taliban storm building firm kill 35 workers in east Afghanistan

KHOST, Afghanistan Thu May 19, 2011 8:20am EDT

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KHOST, Afghanistan (Reuters) - Taliban insurgents killed 35 construction workers and wounded 24 in an attack in volatile southeastern Afghanistan, provincial officials said on Thursday, adding 10 insurgents had also been killed.

Thirteen workers were still missing after the assault, which took place late on Wednesday in Paktia province's Zadran district, government official Abdullah Durani told Reuters in neighboring Khost province.

Afghan forces have begun a search for the missing workers, said Rohullah Samon, spokesman for Paktia province.

The Taliban confirmed its fighters had killed "many workers" belonging to the firm in a gunfight, but denied it took any hostages, said Taliban spokesman Zabihullah Mujahid.

Despite the presence of up to 150,000 foreign troops, violence across Afghanistan is at its worst since the 2001 overthrow of the Taliban government by U.S.-backed Afghan forces, and last year saw record casualties on both sides.

Construction crews and others working on infrastructure projects are frequently targeted by insurgents. The Taliban claimed responsibility for an attack in March when three suicide bombers killed 24 construction workers in Paktika, a province considered a hotbed of the insurgency.

The Taliban last month announced the start of a long-awaited "spring offensive," vowing to carry out attacks, including suicide bombings on foreign and Afghan troops and government officials in the tenth year of an increasingly unpopular war.

(Writing by Amie Ferris-Rotman; Editing by Paul Tait and Daniel Magnowski)

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