Airstrikes kill eight civilians, 25 militants in Afghanistan (Lead)

August 11th, 2008 - 8:55 pm ICT by IANS  

A file-photo of Taliban
Kabul, Aug 11 (DPA) Eight civilians and at least 25 insurgents were killed in airstrikes by US-led coalition forces in southern Afghanistan, the military statement said Monday. According to the statement, the combined Afghan and coalition forces launched the offensive in Khas Uruzgan district in the restive Uruzgan province after a group of militants attacked them Sunday.

The militants ambushed the coalition troops and then fled into a neighbouring compound where they held 11 civilians, including several children and an infant, the statement said.

The militants opened fire on soldiers from inside a compound using small-arms’ fire and rocket-propelled grenades, when troops called in airstrikes.

Three more civilians were wounded in the attack and were evacuated to a coalition hospital, it said.

Juma Gul Hemat, provincial police chief of Uruzgan, said 13 Taliban militants and six civilians were killed in the operation.

He blamed the insurgents for using civilians as human shields and their houses as military positions. Afghan and international forces often accuse Taliban fighters of putting the lives of civilians at risk.

Taliban spokesman Qari Mohammad Yousif Ahmadi claimed the rebels killed 12 US soldiers in the operation. He said one Taliban and 10 civilians were killed and 15 other civilians were wounded in the airstrikes.

Due to the remoteness of the area, it was difficult to independently verify the casualty figures.

Civilian victims of military operations have become a matter for concern for the Afghan government trying to win the public support to overcome the Taliban-led insurgency.

A lawmaker and local villagers claimed that 19 civilians, including women and children, were killed in another US airstrike in Tagab district of northeastern province of Kapisa Saturday night.

More than 1,000 civilians have been killed so far this year, with 260 of them in July, making it the deadliest month for civilians since the fall of the Taliban regime in late 2001, according to an Afghan aid coordinating agency.

In another incident, a coalition helicopter made a hard landing in Uruzgan province on Sunday night, the US military said in a separate statement.

No one was injured, the statement said. “There was no reported enemy fire in the area. The cause of the hard landing is unknown at this time and the incident is under investigation.”

But Ahmadi, the Taliban spokesman, said the helicopter landed on a mine planted by their fighters following a roadside bomb attack on a coalition vehicle in the area.

“First one of their vehicles was blown up by a mine and then when the chopper came to evacuate the soldiers, it landed on another planted mine,” Ahmadi said.

He said several soldiers were killed in the blast and that the wreckage of the chopper was still in the area.

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