Afghan extremists killed in raid as Rumsfeld visits


Wed, Jul 12, 2006 - Page 1

Coalition and Afghan forces hunting a Taliban commander killed an estimated 30 extremists yesterday in a raid on a hide-out in southern Afghanistan, the military said, as US Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld expressed confidence that the hard-line militia would be defeated.

The firefight came a day after a US warplane bombed another militant hideout in southern Afghanistan, killing more than 40 Taliban fighters, the military claimed. Wounded Afghans from Monday's raid claimed children and women were killed.

The renewed violence came as Rumsfeld made an unannounced visit to the Afghan capital, Kabul, yesterday for talks with President Hamid Karzai on the escalating violence.

At a joint press conference with Karzai, Rumsfeld said militants "don't want to see a country like Afghanistan have a successful democracy."

"They won't succeed," he added.

More than 700 people, mostly militants, have died since mid-May in the deadliest spate of violence since the Taliban's late 2001 ouster, according to Afghan and coalition casualty figures tallied by the Associated Press.

Yesterday's raid took place in Sangin village in the volatile Helmand province, where more than 3,000 NATO-led British troops have been deploying to take over security control from US forces.

"The purpose of this operation was to capture or kill a Taliban commander and his close associates, who have actively planned and carried out attacks on Afghan and Coalition Forces in the Helmand and Kandahar provinces," the military said in a statement.

It didn't identify the Taliban commander and it was unclear if he was among the 30 militants the military estimated were killed. The military did not explain how it came to that figure.

Troops were tipped off on the location of the militant hide-out after interviewing detained fighters, the military said.