Tue, Aug 08, 2006 - Page 5 News List

Fight sources of terrorism, urges Afghan official

AP , KABUL

Afghanistan's foreign minister urged the world to stem the flow of extremists, weapons and terror funding into the country, as a NATO-led security force suffered its ninth fatality and its main base came under rocket attack.

Insurgents fired three rockets at Kandahar Air Field, a sprawling base near the main southern city of Kandahar, home to some 10,000 international troops and civilians, military spokesman Major Scott Lundy said yesterday. The attack, launched late on Sunday, caused no damage or injury.

British and Afghan forces used air power and ground troops to kill 17 Taliban in the southern Helmand Province at the weekend, police said, and a suspected suicide truck bomber hurt a US soldier and wrecked a vehicle in a military convoy in Kandahar Province.

Foreign Minister Rangeen Dadfar Spanta, in an interview on Sunday, said his country remained the main victim of the international terror network led by Osama bin Laden.

Eliminating the network is "an international task," he said.

He urged the international community to do more to fight what he called the sources of terrorism: Islamic schools, international sponsors, and the influx of weapons -- although huge amounts of weapons are believed to remain in Afghanistan, leftover from a quarter century of war.

His comments came as NATO-led troops attempted to extend the government's reach in the insurgency-wracked south, where they took charge of security from a US-led coalition a week ago amid an escalation in attacks by Taliban-led rebels.

A British soldier was killed on Sunday as NATO-led troops pushed into the mountainous Musa Qala district of southern Helmand Province, where three other British soldiers were killed last week.

The death was the ninth suffered by the alliance's troops since the changeover, and the 10th British soldier to die in Afghanistan in the past two months.

In recent months, the militants have stepped up their attacks against Afghan and NATO-led forces in the worst upsurge of violence in the country since the late 2001 US-led invasion that toppled the Taliban regime for hosting Osama bin Laden and al-Qaeda.

Before NATO took charge of security in the south, US-led troops conducted a six-week offensive that the military said left more than 1,100 suspected Taliban militants killed, wounded or captured.

Spanta said that the resurgent Taliban militants and al-Qaeda network are working together in Afghanistan.

"They are different elements of the same terrorist network," Spanta said, without offering proof.

In conciliatory comments after months of acrimony, he also called for a "new dimension" in relations with Pakistan -- which Afghan officials have repeatedly accused of training and harboring militants.

"It is evidently necessary to extend cooperation with our brothers in Pakistan against the center of terrorism," Spanta said. "In this field we have the possibility to do more."

In Helmand Province's Garmser district, Afghan police on Saturday killed three Taliban and wounded one, before NATO airstrikes killed another 14 Taliban and wounded six, said district police chief Ghulam Rasool, citing local intelligence reports.

A NATO spokesman would not comment, saying the operation was ongoing.

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