28 Taliban killed in Afghanistan

January 22nd, 2009 - 9:54 pm ICT by IANS  

TalibanKabul, Jan 22 (DPA) Afghan and NATO-led soldiers killed 22 militants in Afghanistan in a clash near the border with Pakistan, while the US-led international coalition forces killed six suspected militants in the southern region, officials said Thursday.A group of Taliban militants attacked Afghan army soldiers and NATO forces in south-eastern province of Khost Wednesday, sparking a fierce battle that continued until early hours of Thursday, the defence ministry said in a statement.

Initially the Afghan defence ministry had said that at least eight insurgents were killed and two others were wounded in the clash and their bodies were left behind by the fleeing militants.

But the NATO alliance said in a statement later that the clash left 22 militants dead, but caused no casualties among the civilians as it took place in a remote area away from the residential houses.

Afghan defence ministry said that foreign fighters were also among the dead militants, but did not disclose their nationalities.

Afghan and NATO officials have repeatedly said that foreign fighters including Pakistanis, Arabs, Chechens, and militants from Central Asian countries are fighting alongside the Taliban against Afghan government and international forces in the country. The foreign forces are mostly under the command of Al Qaeda leaders in the region.

Separately, US-led coalition forces targeted a network of roadside bomb makers and foreign fighters in southern Afghanistan on Wednesday, killing six insurgents.

The militants were killed in Day Chopan district of the southern province of Zabul after they refused to surrender and opened fire on forces approaching their hideout, the US military said in a statement.

The prime target of the operation was a Taliban commander, who was wanted for his ties to a roadside bombing network and trafficking of foreign fighters to the region, the statement said, but did not say if the man was among those killed.

Five of the militants were killed in a small-arms fight, while the sixth was taken out by “precision airstrikes,” the statement said, adding the troops protected 23 women and 31 civilians during firefight.

Unlike previous years, NATO and coalition forces, who together have more than 650,000 troops in the country, continued to engage the militants despite the cold winter weather.

The militants retreated to their rear bases inside Pakistani tribal areas during the winter months in the past six years, according to Afghan and NATO military officials.

But as they penetrated new towns and urban areas in 2008, the Taliban-led insurgents have remained in the country this winter, prompting the military commanders on the ground to expect an early spring offensive.

Taking advantage of modern technology and sophisticated intelligence gathering, the international forces have heavily targeted the Taliban hideouts, where they make roadside bombs, in the recent months.

Roadside and suicide bombings are the common tactics for the Taliban militants. They carried out around 2,000 roadside attacks in 2008.

Taliban militants have steadily gained power in the past three years. The militants have intensified their attacks in recent months and are adamant to topple the Western-backed Afghan government.

Up to 30,000 more US troops are expected to arrive in Afghanistan this year to contain insurgency. US President Barack Obama has announced that he would make the fight against terrorism in Afghanistan one of his administration’s top priorities.

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