Afghan troops kill 20 Taliban
KABUL: Afghan forces backed by US troops and aircraft Friday killed up to 20 militants during the fifth consecutive day of fighting against suspected Taliban insurgents in violence-wracked southeast Afghanistan, officials said.
Afghan and US-led coalition forces have been carrying out a major operation against suspected Taliban and Al-Qaeda bases in the mountains of Daychopan district of the southern province of Zabul.
Afghan forces clashed with Taliban fighters after a night of heavy US bombing. Twenty suspected Taliban militants were killed during fighting which started around 6:00 am Friday and lasted more than eight hours, Zabul Governor Hafizullah Hashim told AFP by satellite phone. “Their bodies are scattered in the area. They (the Taliban) have been weakened and I think they cannot pose any threat to us any more,” he said.
“The American aircraft heavily bombed the area.” Three Afghan soldiers sustained minor wounds, he said. It was not possible to independently verify casualties in the remote mountain area and the US military were not immediately available for comment. One US Special Operations soldier died Friday morning of injuries received in a fall during a night combat assault near Daychopan, the US military said earlier. “The injuries were sustained during an accidental fall and were not the result of hostile action,” it said in a statement from the coalition’s Bagram Air Base headquarters.
A US-led coalition soldier was also wounded during a firefight near Daychopan Thursday night, spokesman Colonel Rodney Davis said. The soldier, whose nationality was not disclosed, was airlifted to a US military hospital in Germany.
US Special Forces patrolling in Daychopan district were separately attacked by about a dozen gunmen, Davis said. None of the US troops were injured. Close air support was called in and the soldiers returned fire, scattering the attackers.
In neighbouring Kandahar province, at least three Afghan government troops were killed and a commander kidnapped when suspected Taliban guerrillas attacked checkpoints close to the Pakistan border, an official said.
“Three Afghan soldiers were killed between the night Thursday and Friday when Taliban launched attacks on three Afghan checkposts at Spin Boldak,” Mullah Abdul Manan, district police chief of the Afghan border town Spin Boldak, told AFP. Manan said the suspected Taliban also kidnapped Afghan commander Haji Wali Shah during the attack. Four Taliban were wounded, but escaped towards Pakistan, he claimed.
Taliban commander Mullah Abdul Samad, talking to reporters in Chaman via satellite phone from an unknown location, also said his fighters were behind the attacks and the kidnapping. He claimed they killed 15 Afghan soldiers. “Taliban have killed 15 Afghan soldiers, destroyed one vehicle and kidnapped an Afghan commander,” Samad said. “During an attack on the first checkpost nine Afghan soldiers were slain and at the second checkpost they killed six more.” The number of casualties at the third checkpost was unknown, he added. Samad said there were no Taliban casualties. —Agencies