KANDAHAR, Afghanistan – Taliban militants beheaded seven policemen Friday after overrunning their checkpoints in southern Afghanistan, officials said, while in a separate clash, an Australian soldier and three civilians were killed.
Six other police officers were missing after the Taliban attacked police checkpoints in Arghandab district, in Kandahar province, said Abdul Hakim Jan, a police officer.
The attack in the strategic area of Arghandab, 15 miles north of Kandahar city, came weeks after Afghan and foreign troops forced Taliban militants to relinquish control of the town, which they had briefly captured.
During Friday’s attack, the militants ambushed police checkpoints set up to keep the Taliban fighters away from the town and beheaded the policemen, said Mullah Mohammad Nabi, a purported Taliban commander in the area.
In neighboring Uruzgan province, an Australian soldier and three civilians were killed in an attack on Taliban bomb-makers in the provincial capital of Tirin Kot, Australia’s defense chief said.
It was Australia’s third combat death in the conflict, all in the past two months.
Air Chief Marshal Angus Houston said Pvt. Luke Worsley, 26, was killed while participating in a planned attack “against Taliban leaders and bomb-makers.”
After the clash, three civilians â€” two women and one child â€” were found dead in the militants’ compound, NATO’s International Security Assistance Force said.
It was not known how they died, NATO said.
“However, we do know that the insurgents fired upon ISAF soldiers from the compound in which the Afghan civilians were found after the fight,” it said.
Separately, U.S.-led coalition troops clashed with militants in central Afghanistan on Thursday, killing several suspected insurgents and wounding one coalition member, the coalition said.
The troops were searching compounds in Nawur district, in Ghazni province, when militants opened fire, the statement said.
“Coalition forces returned fire, killing a number of militants,” the statement said. “There were no indications of injuries or deaths to civilians not taking part in hostilities.”
Two people were detained for questioning, the statement said.
More than 6,000 people have been killed in insurgency-related violence in 2007, according to an Associated Press count based on figures from Western and Afghan officials.