South Asia News
50 insurgents, 11 civilians killed in Afghan attacks (Roundup)
Jan 7, 2009, 13:48 GMT
Kabul - Afghan and US-led coalition forces killed at least 50 Taliban militants in separate attacks and operations in Afghanistan, while 11 civilians including eight women were killed in a Taliban rocket attack in southern region, officials said Wednesday.
US-led coalition forces claimed Wednesday their forces killed 32 insurgents, including an armed female militant, in eastern Afghanistan.
The combined forces targeted a group of 75 Taliban-led militants in Alishang district of the eastern province of Laghman on Tuesday and destroyed two large caches of weapons and roadside bomb materials, the US military said in a statement.
'The targeted Taliban network was involved in planning, building and emplacing roadside bombs as well as attacks against civilian and Coalition forces throughout 2008,' the statement said.
The militants fired on the joint forces as they reached the targeted village, the statement said, adding that the coalition forces returned fire only with small arms and avoided using close air support or artillery in order to minimize the potential for civilian casualties.
The joint forces found two large caches of weapons and explosives and destroyed them on the spot, because of the unstable nature of the explosive munitions, it said, adding, 'secondary blasts from the unstable explosives destroyed the building they (the militants) were hidden in.'
The statement did not say if there were any casualties on the side of the combined forces or civilians in the operation.
Due to the remoteness of the area, independent verification of the death tolls was not possible. Such operations in populated areas in the past have resulted in deaths of several civilians in addition to insurgents.
Meanwhile, Afghan commandos and coalition forces killed six militants, including a rebel commander in Khak-e-Safaid district of western Farah province on Wednesday, a separate US military statement said.
An Afghan and a coalition soldier were wounded in the operation, it added.
In another incident, 12 Taliban militants and 11 civilians were killed in a clash between Taliban and Afghan forces backed by NATO troops in Tarin Kot district of southern Uruzgan province, an Interior Ministry spokesman said in a statement.
During the clash on Monday a rocket allegedly fired by suspected Taliban militants hit a road near a group of civilians, killing 11 of them and wounding nine others, the statement said.
Gholab Khan Wardak, the provincial police security chief said the villagers were fleeing from their homes in fear of NATO airstrikes when the incident occurred. He said NATO warplanes were in the area at the time of the rocket attack.
Wardak said eight of the dead civilians were women.
Separately, NATO forces rejected reports that several civilians were killed during an operation in Bughran district of southern Helmand province on Tuesday morning.
Local Afghan media, quoting village residents, reported that up to 11 civilians, including a medical doctor, were killed in the NATO operation, but the alliance said in a statement that those killed were all insurgents.
'During the operation, a group of insurgents were positively identified leaving a compound that had been under observation. When these personnel were clear of the compound, they were engaged by ISAF forces,' the statement said, referring to the NATO-led International Security and Assistance Force.
The statement said international forces were aware of the allegations, but they had 'no knowledge of casualties other than the positively identified insurgents.'
Civilian casualties at the hands of international forces have become a sensitive issue for the government of Western-backed President Hamid Karzai.
Karzai has repeatedly warned that increasing civilian deaths would erode public support for his government and would provoke anti- foreigner sentiments in Afghanistan.
At least 1,500 civilians were among the 4,000 killed in the first eight months of last year, according to United Nations officials in Afghanistan.