Saturday, June 17, 2006
By TINI TRAN
KABUL, Afghanistan Jun 17, 2006 (AP) — Coalition forces pressed forward with a major offensive in southern Afghanistan, killing an estimated 45 insurgents in attacks on two Taliban militant camps, military officials said Saturday.
Most died when Afghan and coalition forces surprised militants as they gathered at a "known enemy camp" in Khod Valley, part of the Shaheed Hasas district of Uruzgan province, the military said in a statement.
"Coalition forces tracked the development of this meeting until there were more than 50 extremists gathered before attacking," said military spokesman Lt. Col. Paul Fitzpatrick.
About 40 militants were killed, including bombers, their financial backers and local leaders responsible for attacks against Afghan civilians and the army, the military said.
"Coalition forces have delivered a quick and severe blow to the enemy today," Fitzpatrick said.
Separately, Afghan and coalition forces conducted a raid on a Taliban compound near Tarin Kowt, the capital of Uruzgan, killing five insurgents, the military said. They also seized about eight pounds of opium.
One U.S. soldier was wounded in the raid. He was later listed in stable condition.
Also Friday, two coalition soldiers were killed by a roadside bomb in Asadabad district in eastern Kunar province as they were conducting a security sweep of the area, the military said. Their nationalities were not released.
The combat operations were part of Operation Mountain Thrust, the largest anti-Taliban military campaign undertaken since the former regime's 2001 ouster in an American-led invasion.
More than 10,000 U.S.-led troops were deployed this week across southern Afghanistan to quell a Taliban resurgence before NATO-led forces take over from the coalition this summer.
Earlier this week, coalition forces said they killed an estimated 40 militants in a remote, mountainous area of southeastern Paktika province in operations in support of Mountain Thrust. One coalition member was wounded in that operation.
U.S., Canadian, British and Afghan troops have fanned out over four restive provinces Helmand, Uruzgan, Kandahar and Zabul to hunt down Taliban fighters blamed for the surge in ambushes and bombings.
Extremist forces, primarily Taliban, have escalated attacks against coalition and Afghan troops, particularly in the south, in the bloodiest campaign of violence launched since 2001. More than 500 people, mostly militants, have been killed in the past month.
Also Friday, Afghan authorities arrested 12 Taliban fighters who were attending the funeral of a slain commander in the Qarabagh district of Ghazni province, governor Haji Sher Alam said.
Afghan police and soldiers also confiscated a dozen AK-47 assault rifles, eight rocket-propelled grenade launchers and four motorbikes, he said.
Four highway policemen were killed in southern Kandahar province when a roadside bomb exploded near their vehicle, provincial officials said.
Coalition forces also came under attack in southern Uruzgan province and neighboring Zabul province but no casualties were reported, said coalition spokesman Maj. Quentin Innis.
Operation Mountain Thrust began in mid-May with limited attacks and raids launched by coalition forces. The offensive's main phase opened Thursday and is expected to expand further over the coming days.
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