Page last updated at 18:23 GMT, Monday, 16 June 2008 19:23 UK

Taleban 'capture Afghan villages'

Afghanistan map

Some 500 Taleban fighters have taken over several villages in southern Afghanistan, local officials say.

The villages are in the Arghandab district, near the main regional city of Kandahar.

The reports come three days after about 350 Taleban fighters escaped from a jail in Kandahar.

Afghan and Nato officials have said they are redeploying troops to respond to "any potential threats" from the escaped rebels.

It was not immediately clear if the freed Taleban inmates were among the fighters who seized the villages on Monday.

A former Taleban stronghold, Kandahar is one of the key battlegrounds of the rebel insurgency against Afghanistan's government and troops from Nato and a US-led coalition.

Diplomatic row

In a separate development, Afghanistan's ambassador to Pakistan was summoned to the foreign ministry to receive a formal protest over remarks by President Hamid Karzai.

Mr Karzai said on Sunday that Afghanistan had the right to send troops across the border to chase militants taking shelter in Pakistan.

The Afghan ambassador in Islamabad was given a "strong protest" over the comments, Pakistani officials said.

The US says cross-border raids from Pakistan are a growing problem.

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