U.S., Afghan troops kill scores of insurgents

Associated Press
Published September 2, 2007

KABUL, Afghanistan - Afghan troops backed by foreign soldiers and airpower killed about 70 suspected Taliban fighters in raids close to the Pakistan border and throughout the country, authorities said Saturday.

Insurgent violence in Afghanistan is running at its highest level since the 2001 ouster of the Taliban despite the presence of more than 50,000 foreign troops and 110,000 Afghan police and military officers.

U.S.-led troops and Afghan security forces raided compounds late Friday in three villages in the remote Pitigal Valley border region, where intelligence has shown that top militant leaders take refuge as they travel between Pakistan and Afghanistan, the U.S.-led coalition said.

More than 20 insurgents were killed and 11 others were detained, and officers discovered a bombmaking factory, the coalition said in a statement.

Afghan authorities have accused Pakistan in the past of not doing enough to prevent the movement of militants across the border to attack Afghan and foreign troops in the country. Pakistan says it has deployed tens of thousands of the troops along the volatile frontier to stem the flow of militants.

In the central province of Ghazni, Afghan police attacked a group of Taliban planning to strike security forces, killing 18 and arresting six others, said provincial police Gen. Ali Shah Ahmadai.

A coalition statement said the operation was meant to target "a militant responsible for facilitating the movement of foreign fighters," but did not say if the militant was killed.

In the Musa Qala district in southern Helmand province, a combined police and coalition patrol came under attack on Friday from mortars, rocket-propelled grenades and small-arms fire, the coalition said in a statement. In the fight that ensued, almost two dozen insurgents were killed. No Afghan or coalition soldiers, or civilians, were killed, the statement said.

Also in Musa Qala, Afghan forces Saturday called in coalition airstrikes after coming under attack, the coalition said. Seven insurgents were killed, the statement said.

It was not possible to independently verify any of the death tolls because travel to the areas is extremely dangerous. Taliban commanders were not available for comment.

Parts of Musa Qala have been under the control of Taliban militants for months, and the region has seen several weeks of combat.

More than 4,200 people - most of them insurgents - have been killed so far this year, according to an Associated Press count.