MAZAR-I-SHARIF, Afghanistan (Reuters) - Taliban militants gunned down and killed six people in Afghanistan working on a government-backed literacy project in the northern province of Faryab, officials said on Wednesday.
The insurgent group is stepping up attacks on state workers ahead of presidential elections due in April 2014, fanning security concerns as foreign troops prepare to withdraw from the country by the end of next year.
"They were travelling this morning to observe a literacy project when the Taliban stopped their car and shot them," said provincial police chief Nabi Jan Mullahkhil.
The victims worked for a French aid group involved in the project, and just one of the seven workers gunned down survived, the Ministry of Rural Rehabilitation and Development said.
The drawdown of international troops from Afghanistan is well underway after more than 12 years of war since the United States invaded and the Taliban were ousted from power.
Afghan President Hamid Karzai is negotiating a bilateral security agreement with the United States that could help shape a post-war mission in the country but has so far held off on signing the pact.
The United States is threatening to pull out all its troops unless the deal is clinched by the end of the year.
A U.S. exit could prompt others to follow, and make aid donors reluctant to provide more funds as corruption is rampant and deteriorating security makes it harder to monitor cash flows. Despite the billions invested in rebuilding the war-ravaged nation, Afghanistan remains dependent on foreign aid.
Reporting by Bashir Ansari in Mazar Sharif and Mirwais Harooni; Writing by Jessica Donati; Editing by Clarence Fernandez