Fifteen Afghan security guards working for a private US firm were killed in an ambush by Taliban militants in western Afghanistan on Tuesday, police said.
Nine other guards with the company, identified as USPI, were wounded in the attack in Farah province, police official Colonel Saydo Khan told AFP.
The guards were escorting a civilian supply convoy to a Western military base when they were attacked in the district of Bala Buluk, he said.
"Taliban ambushed them. Fifteen guards were killed and nine others were injured," Khan said.
Police reinforcements had been sent to the area and were fighting the attackers in a nearby village, he said from the scene.
"I can see the bodies of the guards. We have evacuated the wounded to the hospital," Khan said.
Provincial governor Mohaiuddin Baluch confirmed the incident but had no details of the casualties.
The insurgents regularly attack convoys that supply military bases in the region and have also targeted food aid convoys from the World Food Programme.
Farah neighbours southern Helmand province -- the Taliban's biggest stronghold -- and has seen growing unrest in the past year, with the militants able to briefly capture several districts in recent months.
The rebels made a new offensive overnight when dozens of them stormed the Khak-i-Safed district but were pushed back by police, Baluch said.
Three Taliban fighters were killed in the fighting late Monday, he said.
The Islamic rebels briefly captured Khak-i-Safed and adjoining Gulistan districts late last month but were ejected after Afghan security forces and NATO troops moved in.
The rebels, who were in government from 1996 to 2001, have captured remote districts from time to time, mainly in southern Afghanistan, but have usually not been able to hold them for long.
They did hold Musa Qala in Helmand for 10 months before escaping a four-day advance by Afghan and NATO troops who entered the town in a high-profile operation last week.
Violence fueled by the Taliban insurgency has soared in the past two years, killing about 6,000 people this year alone -- most of them Taliban fighters but also about 1,000 Afghan security forces and more than 200 Western soldiers.
Other groups are also involved in the unrest, which has included kidnappings for ransom.
A German national was kidnapped Sunday in Herat province, which neighbours Farah, but it was not immediately known if the Taliban were responsible.
The man, who officials said was a convert to Islam married to an Afghan woman, was kidnapped Sunday in the western province of Herat, police said.
German daily Sueddeutsche Zeitung identified the captive as Harald Kleber, 42. Afghan officials said he was locally known by his Muslim name, Abdul Rahman.
It was the fifth abduction of a German national in Afghanistan
this year. (AFP)