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Afghan official gunned down on way to mosque

LAST UPDATED: 2:12 a.m. HST, Jan 5, 2012

KABUL, Afghanistan (AP) — Attackers gunned down a local government official on his way to a mosque in southern Afghanistan, authorities said Thursday, in the latest hit on a government figure.

Hundreds of Afghan government officials have been killed in recent years as the Taliban pursue a sweeping assassination campaign seeking to weaken confidence in President Hamid Karzai's administration and discourage people from joining the government.

Haji Fazel Mohammad was shot on his way to evening prayers Wednesday in the volatile district of Sangin in Helmand province, the governor's office said. The attackers escaped.

Mohammad served on the local council for Sangin, which has been targeted by frequent insurgent attacks since U.S. and Afghan forces regained control two years ago. The district, a one-time Taliban stronghold, acts as a regional transit hub and is a gateway to a major dam that provides electricity.

Sangin also has one of the highest concentrations of concealed bombs in Afghanistan. More than 100 British troops died there during several years of operations.

The Taliban's assassination campaign has also hit senior figures.

In September, a suicide attacker with a bomb in his turban killed former Afghan president Burhanuddin Rabbani, who led a government council seeking a political settlement with the insurgents. The assassin was posing as a Taliban peace emissary.

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