LONDON  - Recent deadly attacks in and around Kabul show that Taliban fighters are closing in on the Afghan capital, seven years after they were ousted from power, a think-tank said Thursday. The Senlis Council warned last November that Afghanistan was "in crisis" and at risk of becoming a divided state, since the Taliban had a permanent presence in more than half - 54 per cent - of Afghan territory. This was "a statistic that has clearly worsened over the course of 2008," it said Thursday, noting that it had warned a few months ago that the Taliban was moving in on Kabul. "Recent news reports ... provide further evidence to back up the findings," said the Council, an international independent security and development policy group. The group said its own recent research showed that more than half of Wardak province - neighbouring Logar province, some 45 minutes from Kabul by road - was now under Taliban control. This research "is proof of the Taliban's resurgence in and around the capital, as well as in their southern and eastern heartlands," it said. Meanwhile, an attack that killed three female Western aid workers near Kabul highlights deteriorating security in Afghanistan with relief groups saying threats of murders and kidnappings are limiting their work. Gunmen on Wednesday pumped bullets into a marked vehicle of the International Rescue Committee, killing the women - a British-Canadian, a Canadian and a Trinidadian-American - and their Afghan driver. "For anti-government elements we are soft targets," said Anja de Beer, director of the Agency Coordinating Body for Afghan Relief, the umbrella group of NGOs, referring to Taliban and other extremists. Soaring crime presents another threat, contributing to what an ACBAR report said this month was a 50pc spike in violent incidents this year over last with rough estimates of 1,000 civilians killed so far. "The criminals know there is something to gain, for example, kidnapping for ransom," de Beer told AFP. The extremist threat is greatest in the insurgency-hit south and southeast, where most groups had pulled out their expatriate staff or only sent them down for short missions, said de Beer. "There is a shrinking area of intervention," de Beer said. No-go areas are spreading - including some areas just outside the capital - with the main road between Kabul and the southern city of Kandahar off-limits to most expatriates. "Local staff travel in ordinary cars," de Beer said. "They try not to carry papers and pens " if you are literate, you must work with an NGO." Local employees of the Afghan Health and Development Services keep a low profile in volatile areas, Kandahar provincial manager Mohammad Kabir told AFP. "For example, they don't take our own cars. They travel in ordinary cars, looking like ordinary people," he said. But still the group has had 25 staffers kidnapped this year and last, although they were freed with the help of tribal elders, and seven vehicles taken, most often after abductions. Several Afghan staff members had been killed in various incidents, he said. "Security problems means that we can't expand our activities," Kabir said. In the west, the Spanish-funded Association for Cooperation with Afghanistan, said it did not move beyond 10km outside of the city of Herat. "There have not been any attacks on our staff but we feel that if we go outside the city, we might be attacked by Taliban, kidnappers or other armed groups," said the group's regional head Muhammad Asghar Yawar.