An aid group in Afghanistan said it was considering pulling out of part of the country after Taliban militants attacked its compound in a southern town, killing three people and engaging authorities in a gunbattle.
The raid was the latest in a series of attacks on relief organizations that militants say are enemies because they have the backing of US military forces in Afghanistan. More than 40 aid and reconstruction workers have been killed in attacks this year.
Along with the kidnapping of three UN workers who were freed unharmed last week after nearly four weeks in captivity, Sunday's attack underscores the lack of security in many parts of Afghanistan despite international forces guarding the capital, Kabul.
Dozens of gunmen stormed the Voluntary Association for the Rehabilitation of Afghanistan's office in Delaram, a town in southwestern Nimroz province, early on Sunday.
The militants shot dead a cook, a night watchman and another employee as they were sleeping, said Najamuddin Mojaddedi, the association's regional head. Another watchman was missing, he said.
Security forces rushed to the scene and fought the assailants for about an hour. Four police officers were injured before the militants withdrew, deputy police chief Mohammed Rassoul said.
"The Taliban are just killing innocent people trying to help their country. I don't understand why they do this." Mojaddedi said.
He said his group would decide whether to pull out of the region, where it has worked for 14 years on agricultural projects.
In Delaram, it distributes seeds on behalf of the UN World Food Program and builds schools and wells with the help of Dutch and Italian relief groups.
The Taliban claimed responsibility for Sunday's attack.
But Mullah Abdul Hakim Latifi, a man who claims to speak for the former ruling militia, insisted the attack was against a government checkpoint and that all the victims were soldiers. He said the missing man had been executed.
"We will continue to attack the United States and its allies, because they have occupied our Islamic country," he said.
Latifi also said Taliban militants detonated the bomb that slightly injured three German soldiers in northern Afghanistan on Friday.
Sunday's attack and the three fatalities were the first for aid workers since Aug. 3.