Tue, Oct 17, 2006 - Page 5 News List

Coalition destroys Afghan bomb factory

AFP , KABUL

Coalition planes destroyed a bomb-making cell yesterday in central Afghanistan in an encounter that left three insurgents dead and one foreign soldier wounded, a coalition statement said.

Afghan and coalition troops had gone to the compound in the central province of Ghazni based on intelligence that it housed a cell making "improvised explosive devices," bombs often used in the Taliban-led insurgency.

"When the combined force attempted to peacefully search the compound and ask residents to come out for questioning, enemy personnel inside the compound began firing and wounded a coalition soldier," it said in a statement.

"The combined force called in close-air support and killed three suspects in the engagement."

The compound housed on men who were building "improvised explosive devices" it said.

During the fighting, a weapons cache blew up and caused extensive damage.

Doors inside the compound were later found to be booby-trapped with grenades and rocket-propelled grenade rounds. Racks of small arms and ammunition were discovered strewn around the courtyard, the statement said.

The troops called in a second air strike that "was directed to destroy the explosives in the remaining compound buildings."

Ghazni is about 100km southwest of the capital Kabul, which saw a surge in bombing attacks a few weeks ago that included suicide bombings.

This year has seen a spike in such attacks across the country.

Meanwhile, France announced it would withdraw its 200-member special forces detachment deployed in Afghanistan, the Paris newspaper Journal du Dimanche reported on Sunday.

Both the office of French President Jacques Chirac and the French defense ministry declined to confirm or deny the report, which said a decision had already been made by Chirac as commander of French armed forces.

"Nothing has been decided," a defense spokesman said. "We are in a process of re-examining the situation in Afghanistan."

He said the current evaluation process in Paris covered all French contributions to the 37-nation NATO-led security force. It also centered on the division of labor between securing territory and the training and consolidation of the Afghan army.

However, an authoritative source said the withdrawal option was being studied. The president's office declined any comment.

The French special forces contingent, which has been primarily engaged in anti-terrorist operations, has lost six men since operations began in July 2003.

The newspaper report said the contingent's withdrawal would be part of a reappraisal of all French forces deployed in Afghanistan.

French forces first arrived there in 2001 as part of US-led operations to hunt down the Taliban and Al-Qaeda following the attacks on US territory on Sept. 11.

The special forces were deployed in July in the area of Jalalabad, the largest city in the east of the country.

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