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Militants Attack Afghan Forces In South As Gunmen Storm Kabul Guesthouse

FILE: Members of the Afghan security forces take their positions during an operation against the Taliban in southern Afghanistan.

Afghan officials say militants attacked several checkpoints in the country’s south, killing at least 20 security forces, as gunmen stormed a guesthouse in the capital, Kabul, killing a foreign aid worker and a local security guard.

Gul Islam Seyal, spokesman for the provincial governor in Zabul Province, said on May 21 that the battles began late the previous day when dozens of Taliban fighters launched coordinated attacks on security posts in the Shah Joy district.

He said at least 10 other security forces, including national and local police officers, were wounded.

Seyal said the Taliban, which claimed responsibility for the attacks, also fired mortar rounds on the provincial capital, Qalat.

The attacks in the south came as officials said a German woman and an Afghan security guard were killed and a Finnish woman kidnapped from a Kabul guesthouse overnight.

No group has so far claimed responsibility for the attack late on May 20 on the guesthouse in central Kabul run by the Swedish charity Operation Mercy.

"A Finnish lady was kidnapped from [a] police district last night at 11.30. A German lady and an Afghan guard were killed," said Najib Danish, deputy spokesman for the Interior Ministry.

He said Kabul police have begun an investigation.

Finnish authorities confirmed that one of its citizens had been kidnapped, adding that they were investigating the incident in coordination with Kabul authorities.

"At the moment, the identity of the kidnappers is not known. Finland urges immediate release of the kidnapped person," the Finnish Foreign Ministry said in a May 21 statement.

Operation Mercy is an NGO that works with rural communities on issues such as reducing infant mortality and women's empowerment.

Aid workers have become increasingly targeted across Afghanistan, especially in Kabul, in recent years.

Judith D'Souza, a 40-year-old Indian employee of the Aga Khan Foundation, was rescued in July, one month after she was kidnapped near her residence in Kabul.

Katherine Jane Wilson, an Australian aid worker, was kidnapped in April in the city of Jalalabad. She was released in March.

The spate of attacks came as Taliban militants launched their annual spring offensive in late April, prompting a new surge of fighting in the country.

With reporting by AFP and AP

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