Mon, Nov 19, 2007 - Page 4 News List

Afghan clash toll soaring

KANDAHAR PROVINCE NATO and Afghan troops have killed scores of insurgents in two days of fighting. Two Canadians and their interpreter were also killed

AGENCIES , KANDAHAR, AFGHANISTAN, OTTAWA AND LONDON

Combined Afghan, Canadian and other troops backed by gunship helicopters killed or wounded about 100 Taliban in raids on a stronghold in southern Afghanistan, officials said yesterday

The operation, launched Saturday in Kandahar Province, also cost the lives of two Canadian troops and their interpreter, as well as an Afghan soldier.

The Canadian Defense Ministry confirmed the identity of the soldiers as Corporal Nicolas Raymond Beauchamp, 28, and Private Michel Levesque, 25, both from Quebec.

Three other Canadian soldiers were also injured when the team's light-armored vehicle struck an improvised explosive device about 40km west of Kandahar, the ministry said in a statement.

The three wounded soldiers were taken by helicopter to the Multinational Medical Unit at Kandahar Airfield for treatment.

Meanwhile, Kandahar police chief Sayed Agha Saqeb said "100 Taliban have been killed and wounded" over the weekend.

"Twenty-five Taliban have been buried in one location," he said.

Mostly Canadian NATO troops and Taliban insurgents have been engaged in fierce fighting in the Zherai district, west of Kandahar, for more than a year with each side seizing then losing the same ground several times.

NATO forces have called in airstrikes against insurgent positions and fighting was still going on, a Kandahar police official said.

Meanwhile, a car bomber rammed his vehicle into a convoy of foreign forces in the Girishk district of Helmand Province yesterday but no one was wounded, provincial police chief Hussain Andiwal said.

The target of the attack was a US Humvee, a spokesman for NATO forces said, and it was not clear if it was a suicide attack or not.

Elsewhere, two policemen and three insurgents were killed when the Taliban attacked a police patrol in the Qarabagh district of Ghazni Province, southwest of Kabul, the local intelligence chief, Mohammad Zamaan, said.

In related developments, the head of the British army has warned of serious overstretch and morale problems among troops in excerpts from a high-level report published by the Sunday Telegraph.

Sir Richard Dannatt said the present level of operations was "unsustainable," the British army is "undermanned" and troops are feeling "devalued, angry and suffering from Iraq fatigue," the newspaper said.

The report, which was drawn from months of interviews with thousands of soldiers, warned that increasing numbers of troops were "disillusioned" with service life and "the tank of goodwill now runs on vapor -- many experienced staff are talking of leaving."

"We must strive to give individuals and units ample recuperation time between operations, but I do not underestimate how difficult this will be to achieve whilst under-manned and with less robust establishments than I would like," Dannatt's report said.

In a separate article in the Sunday Telegraph, UK Defense Secretary Des Browne acknowledged that "we are now asking a lot of the services and their families ... Iraq and Afghanistan place huge demands on our personnel."

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