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Apr 23, 4:25 AM EDT

Taliban attack Afghan checkpoint, killing 9 guards

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KABUL, Afghanistan (AP) -- The Taliban stormed a police checkpoint in a northwestern province in Afghanistan and killed nine border guards, while a roadside bombing killed six civilians in the country's southwest, Afghan officials said Thursday.

The checkpoint in Badghis province, one of the most dangerous in Afghanistan, came under attack on Wednesday morning, said Mirwais Mirzakwal, the spokesman for the provincial governor.

The Taliban raided the site in Bala Murghab district, killing nine border guards inside, he added. Before they fled the scene, the insurgents planted mines around the checkpoint.

On Thursday, bomb squads were still removing the mines and trying to get to the bodies of the nine policemen, Mirzakwal said. In a gunbattle that followed the checkpoint attack, four Taliban insurgents were killed and eight were wounded, he added.

The attack came just hours after the Taliban announced their spring offensive in Afghanistan, saying in a statement to media that it will begin on Friday. This fighting season will be the first time the insurgents' annual campaign against the Afghan government will take place without NATO troops on the battlefield.

Foreign combat forces withdrew from Afghanistan at the end of last year, leaving international troops behind to monitor and instruct Afghan forces in the war against the insurgency.

Elsewhere, at least six civilians died when their rickshaw struck a roadside bomb in the country's southwest late Wednesday night, said Ahmad Arab, the spokesman for the provincial governor in Nimroz province.

The six killed included four children, a woman and a man who were all relatives. Another civilian was wounded in the bombing in Khashrod district, Arab added. No group has so far claimed responsibility for that attack.

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