Sat, Aug 05, 2006 - Page 5 News List

NATO attacks Taliban after blasts

AFP , KANDAHAR AND KABUL, AFGHANISTAN

NATO pushed yesterday with a big anti-Taliban operation in a southern Afghan rebel stronghold where a suicide bomber killed 21 people and four Canadian troops died in other attacks.

"There will be a return engagement," International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) spokesman Major Quentin Innes said, declining to give details of ongoing operations.

Thursday's suicide blast in a crowded bazaar in Panjwayi district of southern Kandahar province was one of the biggest this year and struck as a NATO patrol passed through to recover vehicles damaged in earlier bombings.

Another 13 civilians were wounded when an attacker detonated a car bomb among the crowd, about 30km west of Kandahar city.

A few ISAF soldiers received minor injuries in the blast which was about 200m from the convoy, Innes said.

The convoy had been on its way to fetch vehicles damaged in two roadside bombings in the Pashmul area about 10km further west. The blasts killed a Canadian soldier and wounded four others.

Hours later another Canadian convoy was ambushed in the same area, with three more Canadians killed and six wounded.

"There is a lot of stuff going on in Panjwayi, it is very complicated. The feedback we get back from local people is they don't want Taliban there either," Innes said.

"We have been asked by local people in Panjwayi to sort out Taliban that are in the area and that is what we intend to do," he said.

ISAF on Monday took over from the coalition in the south, assuming command of 8,000 troops.

Since the handover, the ISAF force has lost seven troops -- the Canadians and three Britons killed in Helmand Province on Tuesday.

Meanwhile, officials were trying yesterday to get hundreds of South Korean Christians out of Afghanistan after concerns their presence could incite violence.

The government ordered them to leave amid fears for their safety, with some Muslim clerics complaining they were preaching Christianity.

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