SHOMALI PLAINS, Afghanistan (AP) – Militants killed seven Afghans carrying voter ID cards, while hundreds of rockets and other weapons were found Wednesday buried in the desert near Kabul, raising fears of attacks on the capital with landmark elections just days away.

NATO-led peacekeepers discovered the weapons in two caches hidden in a stony gully on the Shomali Plains, about 18 miles north of Kabul.

Some 200 rockets, three anti-aircraft rocket launchers, three anti-tank mines and two boxes of explosives were dug up and taken away to be destroyed. The weapons were found after a tip from a villager, said Col. Massimo Giraudo, an Italian commander.

“This is one of the biggest caches in a long time,” he told The Associated Press. “We’re so close to Kabul that the militants could dig these up and use them to attack within 30 minutes.”

Giraudo said it wasn’t clear who owned the weapons, but he suspected militants may have been plotting to use them to disrupt Sunday’s legislative elections.

During presidential elections in October, several rockets were fired at Kabul from surrounding hilltops.

Supporters of the former ruling Taliban oppose the elections, the next key step in Afghanistan’s transition to democracy after two decades of war.

Fighting has left more than 1,200 people dead in the past six months, including five candidates and four election workers.

The bodies of seven men were found on a main road in Gizab district of Uruzgan province on Tuesday, along with the cards that entitle them to vote.

Provincial Gov. Jan Mohammed Khan blamed Taliban rebels and said militants had launched similar attacks before the presidential election.

“The Taliban are doing these terrorist activities and killing innocent Muslims. I don’t know what kind of Muslims they are, finding voter cards and killing Muslims,” Khan said.

The U.S. military and NATO peacekeepers have boosted their forces and say rebel threats won’t stop the legislative vote.

Meanwhile, U.S.-led coalition and Afghan forces on Tuesday clashed with Taliban militants in the Shinkay district of volatile southern Zabul province, killing three suspected rebels and arresting another who was injured in the fighting, said district chief Wazir Khan.

Also Tuesday, in nearby Khake district, suspected Taliban militants killed a man who worked for Afghan intelligence, district chief Ghulam Haider said.

In the eastern province of Nangahar, Afghan forces arrested five suspected militants, including three Pakistanis, as they traveled in a car Tuesday.

The army and police gave conflicting accounts of the arrests.

Defense Ministry spokesman Gen. Mohammed Saher Azimi said the men were posing as journalists and had explosives hidden inside cameras along with a remote-control device.

However, Nangahar police chief Khalil Zia said the men, two Afghans and three Pakistanis, claimed to be businessmen on a trip to sell chewing gum. He said they had three cameras, but denied explosives were found inside.

Four years ago, Ahmed Shah Masood, the head of the U.S.-backed Northern Alliance that fought the Taliban, was killed by two suspected al-Qaida assassins posing as journalists who had planted explosives inside a camera.

AP-ES-09-14-05 1624EDT


Only subscribers are eligible to post comments. Please subscribe or to participate in the conversation. Here’s why.

Use the form below to reset your password. When you've submitted your account email, we will send an email with a reset code.