Fisnik Abrashi & ,Jason Straziuso / Associated Press & Sharafuddin Sharafyar / The Guardian – 2008-08-23 01:11:41
30 Afghan Militants Killed by US-led Forces
Fisnik Abrashi & ,Jason Straziuso / Associated Press
KABUL, Afghanistan (August 22, 2008) — The US-led coalition said Thursday it had killed more than 30 insurgents in a battle in eastern Afghanistan, fighters an Afghan governor said were responsible for an attack that killed 10 French troops this week. Officials announced the deaths of six NATO soldiers in two attacks.
Lutfullah Mashal, the governor of Laghman province, said coalition bombs targeted fighters on the border of Laghman and Kabul provinces. He said the insurgents were fleeing the valley where Monday’s attack on the French took place.
Mashal said Wednesday night’s air strike was not directly in retaliation for the French ambush because the targeted militants also had been involved in “repeated attacks” in the area.
Coalition troops and Afghan commandos were conducting a search operation in Laghman when militants engaged the troops in a battle Wednesday, the coalition said in a statement. A coalition air strike destroyed an “enemy fighting position” in the area, it said.
More than 30 militants were killed and one militant was wounded and taken for treatment after the clash, the coalition said. It said 200 civilians fled the area before the air strike.
Afghan officials said about 20 civilians were wounded in the fighting. Mashal said it was not clear if the coalition bombs wounded the Afghans or if Taliban fighters had.
Abdullah Fahim, spokesman for the provincial Health Ministry, said 21 civilians were wounded, including five children. Afghanistan is experiencing a surge in violence despite Western efforts to stabilize the country.
French President Nicolas Sarkozy rushed to the country Wednesday to reassure French troops and the world of its commitment to the cause a day after a massive Taliban assault an hour east of Kabul killed 10 of his country’s troops and wounded 21.
This year is likely to be the deadliest for international troops since the invasion in 2001. Some 184 international soldiers, including about 96 Americans, have died in Afghanistan this year, according to an Associated Press count. That pace should far surpass the record 222 international troop deaths in 2007.
In all, more than 3,400 people – mostly militants – have been killed in insurgency-related violence this year, according to figures from Western and Afghan officials.
© 2008 Hearst Communications Inc.
Afghanistan: 76 Civilians Die in Airstrike, Ministry Claims
Sharafuddin Sharafyar / The Guardian
HERAT (August 23 2008) — US-led coalition forces killed 76 Afghan civilians in western Afghanistan yesterday, most of them children, the country’s Interior Ministry said.
The coalition denied killing civilians. Civilian deaths in military operations have become an emotive issue among Afghans, many of whom feel international forces take too little care when launching air strikes, undermining support for their presence.
“Seventy-six civilians, most of them women and children, were martyred today in a coalition forces operation in Herat province,” the Interior Ministry said in a statement.
Coalition forces bombarded the Azizabad area of Shindand district in Herat province on Friday afternoon, the ministry said. Nineteen of the victims were women, seven of them men and the rest children under the age of 15, it said.
US-led coalition forces denied killing any civilians. They said 30 militants had been killed in an air strike in Shindand district in the early hours of Friday and no further air strikes had been launched in the area later in the day.
Air strikes took place after Afghan and coalition soldiers were ambushed by insurgents while on a patrol targeting a known Taliban commander in Herat, the US military said in a statement.
“Insurgents engaged the soldiers from multiple points within the compound using small-arms and RPG (rocket-propelled grenade) fire,” it said. “The joint forces responded with small-arms fire and an air strike killing 30 militants.”
A senior police commander in western Afghanistan confirmed the incident but could not say how many civilians died.
“More than 30 people have been killed. I cannot say how many of them are civilians,” General Ikramuddin Yawar told Reuters.
A spokesman for the Defence Ministry in Kabul said US special forces and Afghan troops had been carrying out an operation against a commander named Mulla Sidiq, who was planning to attack a US base in Herat. “Twenty-five Taliban were killed, including Sidiq and one other commander,” said spokesman General Zaher Azimi.
“Unfortunately, five civilians were killed in the bombing.”
Afghanistan has seen a surge in violence this year as the Taliban steps up its campaign of guerrilla attacks, backed by suicide and roadside bombs, to overthrow the pro-western Afghan government and drive out foreign troops.
Meanwhile, soldiers from the NATO-led International Security Assistance Force (Isaf) fired artillery rounds into Pakistan from the eastern province of Paktika yesterday in a coordinated attack with the Pakistani military, the Isaf said.
The rounds were fired at militants across the border who the Pakistani military said were preparing to fire rockets at an Isaf base in Paktika, Isaf said in a statement.
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