By NOOR KHAN
The Associated Press
Sunday, November 18, 2007; 7:32 PM
KANDAHAR, Afghanistan -- Taliban militants slashed the hands and legs of five abducted policemen in southern Afghanistan and hung their mutilated bodies from trees in a warning to villagers against working with the government, officials said Sunday.
The discovery of the bodies came as officials said that recent violence and clashes had left at least 68 people dead across Afghanistan.
The officers had been abducted two months ago from their checkpoint in southern Uruzgan province, said Juma Gul Himat, the provincial police chief. The Taliban slashed their hands and legs and hung the bodies on trees Saturday in Gazak village of Derawud district, he said.
"The Taliban told the people that whoever works with the government will suffer the same fate as these policemen," Himat said. "This village is under Taliban control. There are more than 100 Taliban in this village."
Two tribal elders received the bodies of the policemen on Sunday, he said.
More than 6,000 people have died in insurgency-related violence this year _ a record number, according to an Associated Press count based on figures from Western and Afghan officials.
The executions followed several days of violence in the country's south which left at least 63 people dead, including 58 militants and two Canadian soldiers.
Also in Uruzgan, police shot and killed two suspected Taliban militants on Sunday as they approached a police checkpoint on a motorbike, Himat said.
In Zabul province, the Taliban ambushed and clashed with an army patrol Saturday night, leaving 11 suspected insurgents dead and four soldiers wounded, said Qasem Khan, a provincial police official.
Authorities recovered the bodies of the 11 militants killed alongside their weapons, Khan said.
In southern Helmand province, a suicide bomber attacked a NATO patrol Sunday in Gereshk district, damaging a vehicle but causing no casualties, said provincial police chief Mohammad Hussein Andiwal.
In Kandahar province, Canadian and Afghan troops battled militants and called in airstrikes in Zhari district on Saturday. One Afghan soldier and at least 20 suspected militants were killed, said provincial police chief Sayed Agha Saqeb.
A roadside bomb hit a NATO vehicle during the same battle, killing two Canadian soldiers and their translator and wounding three other Canadian troops, officials said.
Separately, a suicide bomber on a motorbike attacked a NATO convoy in Nangarhar province's Chaparhar district, killing an Afghan civilian and wounding another NATO soldier, officials said Saturday.
Elsewhere, 23 Taliban militants were killed during a U.S.-led coalition operation on Thursday aimed at disrupting a weapons transfer in southern Afghanistan, the coalition said.