KABUL, Afghanistan -- A blast hit a UN vehicle carrying election workers in eastern Afghanistan, and two foreign men were beaten to death in the capital, officials said yesterday, adding to security fears ahead of the landmark vote in September.
Meanwhile, hundreds of US forces were sweeping through a southeastern province and had arrested 35 Taliban militants, a senior Afghan official reported.
Four election staff escaped unhurt from Saturday's jeep explosion near Grabawa, a village in Nangarhar Province about 60 miles south of Kabul. Their driver was treated for minor injuries. All were Afghans.
"They all managed to get out of the car before it was engulfed in flames," UN spokesman Manoel de Almeida e Silva said.
General Mohammed Yunus Noorzai, the Nangarhar police chief, blamed the Taliban or Al Qaeda, but gave no evidence. Investigators were trying to establish whether the explosion was caused by a mine or a remote-controlled bomb.
The attack on the UN vehicle came days after two British contractors working with the United Nations in preparation for the presidential and parliamentary polls were shot and killed in another eastern province. A spokesman purporting to speak for the Taliban claimed responsibility.
Saturday's explosion was the fourth incident involving UN election workers this year.
The American military has warned that militants will try to disrupt the elections, in which US-backed President Hamid Karzai is expected to triumph.
Two million out of about 10 million eligible voters have signed up so far, and registration has yet to begin in three troubled southern provinces where militants have killed dozens of Afghan troops in recent weeks.
A US Marine also died in a firefight Saturday, but the military insists it had insurgents on the defensive and that it is safe enough for the vote to go ahead.
Meanwhile, Afghan police said two foreigners, one carrying a Swiss passport, were found dead in Kabul yesterday, killed by blows to the head with stones or bricks.
The motive for the killings was not immediately clear, but they sent a jolt through the international community in the relatively stable capital, which is patrolled by a 6,000-strong, NATO-led security force. Police said early morning joggers found the bodies of the two men, aged about 30 and in Afghan dress, in a public garden in west Kabul.
Rudi Hager, the head of the a Swiss development agency which doubles as a diplomatic mission, said that it "was probably just a criminal case," and suspected the Swiss victim was a tourist.
In their latest operation, American troops backed by helicopters began combing three districts of Zabul Province, about 240 miles southeast of Kabul, on Friday, and arrested 35 Taliban militants, Governor Khial Mohammed said.
"There was no resistance," Mohammed said. "All the suspected Taliban are in US custody."
Lieutenant Colonel Michele DeWerth, a US military spokeswoman in Kabul, said 13 people were detained and a weapons cache was found in a search in Zabul on Saturday but gave no further details.
Mohammed initially claimed the operation had netted Mullah Rozi Khan, who is believed to command Taliban militants in Zabul, where the government has little control. He later said that claim was based on incorrect information and that Khan wasn't among the militants arrested.