Taliban gunmen kill 12 Afghan mine clearers: officials

An Afghan soldier inspects the wreckage of Afghan Army bus at the site where a suicide bomber on foot targeted the bus full of soldiers in Kabul on December 11, 2014 (AFP Photo/Shah Marai) (AFP/File)

Taliban insurgents killed 12 mine clearance workers in southern Afghanistan Saturday, officials said, the latest in a series of attacks underlining growing security concerns as NATO ends its combat mission in the country. "Taliban gunmen suddenly attacked the deminers with machinegun fire and rockets as they were busy clearing a minefield," Omar Zwak, spokesman for the Helmand provincial government, told AFP. Zwak said that nearby Afghan army units fought with the Taliban after the attack, killing two insurgents and capturing four others. Ghulam Farooq Parwani, deputy commander of the army's 205th Corps, confirmed the incident and said six mine clearance workers were injured. The Taliban have targeted de-mining projects before, beheading seven workers in the western province of Farah in 2011. Criminal groups and insurgents have repeatedly kidnapped Afghans and foreigners since the 2001 US-led invasion that ousted the Taliban regime, but most hostages are eventually freed. Earlier this year, armed men briefly held about 60 Afghan de-miners hostage in the northwest of the country before an operation by security forces freed them.