Afghan and NATO-led forces killed 20 Taliban fighters and wounded another nine in an operation west of the main southern city of Kandahar, the provincial police chief said yesterday.
The Zherai district, west of Kandahar, is a hotbed of Taliban activity that has been fought over many times between insurgents and Afghan and mainly Canadian troops. Some villages have changed hands several times.
Kandahar police chief Sayed Aqa Saqeb said the bodies of 20 Taliban fighters were still at the scene of the fighting in the operation which began four days ago. Nine Taliban were wounded and four of those were captured, he said.
Elsewhere in Afghanistan, a remote-controlled mine killed a man, his wife and three children travelling on a motorcycle in the south central province of Uruzgan on Sunday, the provincial police chief said.
Violence has surged in Afghanistan this year, with more than 20 percent more attacks than last year, killing at least 5,000 people.
The hardline Islamist Taliban relaunched their insurgency to overthrow the pro-Western Afghan government and eject foreign forces two years ago with a campaign of guerrilla war in the south and east, combined with suicide attacks across the country.
The violence has undermined confidence in the government of President Hamid Karzai and his Western allies to provide security and development more than six years after the Taliban were toppled from power for refusing to hand over al Qaeda leaders in the wake of the Sept. 11, 2001 attacks.
Meanwhile, NATO's top operational commander has called for a surge in efforts to provide basic amenities such as roads, healthcare and schools to Afghans to drive a wedge between the majority population and insurgents.
In an interview with Reuters, US Army General John Craddock said he was cautiously optimistic about NATO's mission in Afghanistan but it was vital for long-term success that Afghans believed their government could help in their daily lives.
"The key here is that there must be a governance push," Craddock said on Sunday evening after flying to western and southern Afghanistan to see the work of the 40,000-strong International Security Assistance Force, led by NATO.
Violence has surged in Afghanistan over the past two years with Taliban insurgents fighting a guerrilla war in the south and east, backed by high-profile suicide and car bombings across the country which foster an atmosphere of fear and insecurity.
Also, Afghan security forces shot dead an unarmed man they believed could be a suicide bomber near the entrance to Kabul's international airport, the defence ministry said yesterday.
A search on his body afterward found no sign of explosives, it added.
The civilian was shot after failing to heed repeated demands by troops and police to stop as he was walking on a road near the airport.
Defense ministry spokesman Mohammad Zahir Azimi said the man's bulging waistcoat pockets made it look as if he had something strapped to his waist.
Both forces have launched an investigation into the incident, he said.
The NATO-led International Security Assistance Force said it was not involved in the shooting.
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