Afghan, coalition forces kill 23 Taliban

KHOST, Afghanistan, AFP

U.S.-led coalition troop and Afghan forces killed 23 Taliban militants in two separate clashes in south and southeastern Afghanistan, Afghan army and coalition said Sunday.

A group of armed Taliban attacked an Afghan and coalition base in the Lawara area of Gian district in southeastern Paktika province early Sunday, sparking a three-hour gunbattle, regional Afghan army commander Mohammad Akram Sami said.

“Coalition forces killed 12 insurgents near Fire Base Tillman in Paktika Province last night,” said a coalition press statement.

Sami had earlier said they killed seven militants and their bodies were left at the site, while two wounded insurgents were arrested, one of them a Pakistani national.

Coalition forces called in aviation support and indirect artillery fire to support the defence of the fire base, the statement said.

Two coalition and two Afghan soldiers were slightly wounded in the attack and one of the Afghan soldiers was medically evacuated for further treatment at a coalition medical treatment facility, it said.

In a separate incident on Saturday a joint force of Afghan army, police and intelligence killed 11 Taliban militants in Lashkar Gah, the capital of Helmand province, the defense ministry said.

“Eleven enemies of peace were killed in the sweep-up operation,” it said in a statement.

The operation in Helmand was launched following a major battle with Taliban militants on Thursday in which 69 insurgents and seven police were killed.

In another incident five Afghan border police were injured in a land mine blast early Sunday in Spinboldak district of southern Kandahar province, police commander Mohammad Raziq told AFP.

Another bomb blast in Khost city, wounded two civilians, a provincial government spokesman told AFP.

South and southeastern Afghanistan have been the regions most affected by the Taliban-led insurgency, which claimed more than 4,000 lives in 2006.

The hardline Taliban regime was ousted in U.S.-led offensive in late 2001.

Taliban loyalists have stepped up their attacks in the past weeks, although military officials reject the rebels’ talk of a “spring offensive” as propaganda.