Fri, Mar 25, 2005 - Page 6 News List

Two children, woman slain in US-Afghan gun battle

AP , KABUL, AFGHANISTAN

Burqa-clad Afghan women walk with children past graves at a Muslim cemetery in Kabul, yesterday. The Afghan government is spearheading an arms-for-amnesty offer for Taliban fighters who have been waging an insurgency since the hardline Islamic regime was toppled in late 2001 but the revolt rumbles on.

PHOTO: AFP

Seven people died, including two children, when US-led forces tried to detain a suspected Taliban militant in a village near the Pakistani border, the military said yesterday.

The battle broke out Tuesday when soldiers from the US-led coalition went to the village in southeastern Paktika province in search of Raz Mohammed, who the military said was implicated in attacks against its troops.

"Coalition troops were fired on by Raz Mohammed and other Taliban forces when they attempted to capture Mohammed," the military said in a statement. "During the ensuing firefight, Mohammed and two other enemy insurgents were killed. An Afghan woman and two children also died."

An Afghan helping the coalition troops also was killed, it said. It was unclear if he was a member of the Afghan security forces or an informer.

Another child and a second Afghan working with the coalition were wounded, the statement said. The child was reported in stable condition.

Mullah Hakim Latifi, a purported Taliban spokesman, said the clash occurred Wednesday afternoon when US troops surrounded the tents where Mohammed was living in Waza Khwa, an impoverished district on the Pakistani border.

"Mohammed resisted the US forces," Latifi said by satellite telephone from an undisclosed location.

He confirmed the death of Mohammed, who he said was a senior military commander in eastern Laghman province before the Taliban's ouster in 2001 and said his wife and six of his children were also killed.

Latifi claimed that eight US soldiers had perished in the battle, but the US military said none of its soldiers were hurt.

Paktika lies in a swath of Afghan territory along the mountainous Pakistani frontier where a stubborn insurgency has exposed the feeble reach of the government of US-backed President Hamid Karzai and hampered reconstruction.

Taliban leaders have threatened a fresh offensive as the harsh Afghan winter wanes, but commanders of the 18,000 overwhelmingly US combat troops in Afghanistan and the separate 8,500-strong NATO security force insist the rebels are weakening.

News of the Paktika clash came a day after the US military said its aircraft killed five suspected Taliban militants near the border in Khost province and also that US-led troops had shot an Afghan boy during a search operation.

The boy died Wednesday when troops fired toward a suspected bomb-builder and two armed men in a village near Asadabad in eastern Kunar province, the military said.

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