Afghan government official, Taliban killed in shootout

Suspected Taliban militants on Tuesday ambushed a senior Afghan government official, who killed one of the attackers before being shot dead in Afghanistan's eastern Paktia province, police said.

The assailants opened fire on the official, Mohammed Zahir, as he walked to work in Zurmat, a town in Paktia, the province's deputy police chief Mohammed Nabi Saalim said.

Zahir, who was carrying an AK-47 rifle, returned fire, killing one attacker and injuring the other before being fatally shot, Saalim said. Police arrested the wounded attacker.

Paktia lies in a swathe of Afghan territory along the Pakistani border, where Taliban militants have kept up a steady stream of attacks against the government, police officials and Afghan and U.S. coalition forces.

Separately, police in the southwestern Nimroz province shot dead a man and seized 346 kilograms (762 pounds) of opium from a car he was driving near the regional capital of Zaranj, said police chief Khalil Bakhtiyar.

The slain man apparently intended to smuggle the opium into Iran, which borders Nimroz, Bakhtiyar said.

Afghanistan is the source of nearly 90 percent of the world's opium and heroin despite the international community pumping hundreds of millions of dollars (euros) into fighting the trade since the hard-line Taliban regime was ousted by a U.S.-led invasion in 2001, reports the AP.

I.L.