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10 slain on patrol, Afghans report

Beheadings cited after an ambush

KANDAHAR, Afghanistan -- A border patrol was ambushed Saturday in the desert near the frontier with Pakistan, a provincial governor said, reporting that 10 Afghan soldiers were killed and beheaded.

Violence elsewhere yesterday left 12 more soldiers dead, along with three rebels.

The 25-member patrol was attacked in the southern province of Helmand, by militants driving four four-wheel-drive pickups, said the provincial governor, Sher Mohammed Aghunzada.

The insurgents killed 10 soldiers. Fifteen, including three who were wounded, fled the ambush, Aghunzada said.

''The Taliban cut the heads off all the soldiers who were killed," he said.

Aghunzada said the assailants launched the assault after they drove across the border from Pakistan. The border is unguarded in that remote area.

Yesterday, 12 other Afghan soldiers were killed when a land mine blew up under their vehicle in Paktika province, also near the border with Pakistan, said a provincial deputy police chief, Ghulam Nabi said.

He said it was not clear if the mine was one of hundreds of thousands of old mines left over from a quarter century of fighting, or had been newly planted.

Also yesterday, in fighting in southern Kandahar province, three people were killed after attacking a government convoy on a highway linking the region to the Pakistani border, said the frontier security chief, General Abdul Raziq Khan.

On Saturday, a purported Taliban spokesman, Mullah Latif Hakimi, said that the rebels had beheaded a US Navy SEAL missing since June 28 in mountains in eastern Kunar province, also near the border with Pakistan.

US officials have been skeptical of Hakimi's assertion, and a US military spokeswoman, Lieutenant Cindy Moore, said yesterday that the search for the SEAL was continuing.

Hakimi has offered no proof to back his repeated assertions that the rebels were holding the SEAL or that they had killed him. Information in the past has sometimes proven exaggerated or untrue, and Hakimi's exact tie to the Taliban leadership cannot be independently verified.

The commando is the last of a four-member elite military team missing in the province. One of the men was rescued, and the other two were found dead.

The Navy SEAL team went missing after a special forces helicopter carrying reinforcements to the mountainous area was shot down, killing all 16 Americans on board, the deadliest single attack on the US military since the war began in 2001.

Afghan officials have accused Pakistan of not doing enough to crack down on militants on its side of the frontier. Some of them believe that elements of the Pakistani army and intelligence network are helping Taliban and Al Qaeda fighters.

Pakistan vehemently denies the charges In the capital yesterday, a rocket slammed into a roadside near the US Embassy and other diplomatic missions in central Kabul. There were no reported casualties; damage to nearby buildings was minimal.

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