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Taliban kill 12 Afghan civilians, aid workers

Afghans helped a man on Tuesday after more violence south of Kabul. Insurgents are trying to regain territory.

Ihsanullah Mahjoor/Associated Press

Afghans helped a man on Tuesday after more violence south of Kabul. Insurgents are trying to regain territory.

KABUL — Insurgents shot and killed 12 civilians in two separate attacks over the weekend, including six aid workers employed on government projects, officials said Tuesday.

The bodies of six victims were found in the Gulran district of western Herat province, said Jamel Danish, media adviser for the Ministry of Rural Rehabilitation.

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Five were Afghan employees of the International Rescue Committee who had been kidnapped on Sunday, and the US-based group said it was temporarily suspending operations. It has worked in Afghanistan since 1988. The sixth victim worked for the ministry.

‘‘The IRC is devastated and grief-stricken by the deaths of our colleagues, who were all working to make a better Afghanistan,’’ IRC president George Rupp said in a statement.

President Hamid Karzai and the United Nations office in Afghanistan also condemned the killings, which the UN said could be classified as a war crime. The Taliban regularly target government employees.

Danish said the six were kidnapped by the Taliban and killed after negotiations to free them failed. His ministry, with help from international groups, seeks to improve the lives of Afghans in remote parts of the country.

Rohullah Samon, spokesman for eastern Paktia province, said six unidentified civilians were also found Tuesday by a roadside.

In Kabul, a suicide bomber riding a bicycle was killed when his explosive went off prematurely, wounding a passerby, said Kabul deputy police chief General Mohammad Daoud Amin.

Violence in Afghanistan has increased as insurgents fight to regain territory.

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