Sun, Aug 27, 2006 - Page 5 News List

Afghan clashes kill two French troops, 13 rebels

FIGHTING SPREADS An increase in militant attacks is occurring in many parts of the nation in the deadliest fighting since the Taliban regime was ousted in 2001


A roadside bomb and gunfight in eastern Afghanistan left two French soldiers dead and another two wounded and at least 13 insurgents were killed in clashes with police and NATO in the south part of the country, officials said yesterday.

The soldiers died when a roadside bomb exploded while they were conducting a combat patrol in eastern Laghman Province on Friday, triggering a gunfight between coalition forces and "a group of enemy extremists," the US military said in a statement.

The wounded soldiers were transported to a hospital where they were listed as being in stable condition.

In southern Helmand Province, NATO-led forces used artillery against an insurgent convoy on Friday, killing seven militants, an alliance spokesman said.

The convoy was spotted by British troops in the Musa Qala district of southern Helmand Province before they ordered the strike, said Major Luke Knittig, a spokesman for the NATO-led force.

The insurgents were traveling in a 12-vehicle convoy before they were hit, he said.

Three vehicles got away while eight were destroyed or disabled, Knittig said.

In Ghazni Province, militants attacked an old Muqur district building early yesterday, killing one court official and wounding two policemen, said Abdul Ali Fakuri, spokesman for Ghazni's governor.

Three vehicles were burnt during the attack, he said.

Militants have stepped up attacks this year and triggered the deadliest violence here since the late-2001 ouster of the Taliban regime. More than 1,600 people, mostly militants, have died in the past four months, according to an Associated Press tally of violent incidents reported by US, NATO and Afghan officials.

Also on Friday, police clashed with suspected Taliban militants in southern Afghanistan, killing six and wounding 12 insurgents, a district chief said.

One policeman was also seriously wounded after militants attacked the compound belonging to a district chief in Argandab district in the southern province of Zabul, said Hussein Ali, the target of the attack.

The militants left the bodies of the dead and took away the wounded following the five-hour clash, Ali said.

Police also recovered weapons from the scene, he said.

Meanwhile, Afghan President Hamid Karzai ordered a probe on Friday into the killing of eight people in a raid US forces claimed targeted al-Qaeda members but local police said were civilians. The probe was the second time in a week Karazi's government has questioned the military's tactics.

The inquiry into Thursday's killings in eastern Kunar Province is Karzai's latest demonstration of displeasure towards the coalition forces that he depends on to protect his weak government from resurgent Taliban and al-Qaeda militants. Karzai has repeatedly demanded foreign forces take more care to avoid civilians casualties when conducting operations.

The US military said a joint force of American and Afghan troops descended on a compound in Shigal district to nab an "al-Qaeda facilitator" wanted for attacks on coalition and Afghan forces in the region.

Gunmen inside the compound shot at the troops, who returned fire and killed seven suspected al-Qaeda members, including the facilitator, the military said.

A child was also killed in the clash and a woman wounded, it said.

But police said US-led forces attacked a building where two families were trying to resolve a dispute with help by tribal elders.

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