KABUL (Reuters) - Taliban fighters will not attack polling stations during next month's election in Afghanistan, a spokesman for the guerrillas said on Monday, but he vowed that the war against the government and U.S. forces would go on.
Also on Monday, the U.S. military said U.S. and Afghan government troops had killed more than 100 militants over the past few weeks in aggressive operations aimed at ensuring security for the September 18 election.
"We have decided not to target polling stations in civilian areas," a spokesman for the militant group, Abdul Latif Hakimi, said by telephone from an undisclosed location.
"U.S. and Afghan forces are setting up polling stations in crowded areas which if attacked will cause big losses," said Hakimi, who government and security officials believe is the main Taliban spokesman.
About 1,000 people, most of them Taliban fighters, have been killed in clashes, ambushes and bomb blasts this year, raising concern about the election, particularly in the country's most-troubled areas in the south and east.
U.S. forces have suffered 47 deaths in combat in Afghanistan this year, four in a blast on Sunday, their worst casualty rate in the country since arriving in late 2001 to force the Taliban from power.
In the latest violence, a suspected Taliban militant blew himself up when challenged at a checkpoint near the southern border town of Spin Boldak, a security official said.
Despite the violence, Afghan government and U.S. officials say the vote, the country's next big step on a difficult path to stability, will not be disrupted.
The Taliban have condemned the election and warned people not to take part but have not threatened to attack polling stations.
A spokesman for NATO-led peacekeepers said he believed the Taliban thought it would be counter-productive to attack the vote, given the amount the Afghan people had invested in the process. A U.S. military spokeswoman referred to the Taliban announcement as a positive step.
They are just feeling the heat now that we are hunting them like wild animals..
Way to go marines!