British soldier killed in Afghan insurgent attack


Sun, Sep 03, 2006 - Page 5

An insurgent attack on Friday killed one British soldier and seriously wounded another in the latest fighting to wrack southern Afghanistan, while suspected Taliban gunmen ambushed and shot dead a district chief, officials said.

Insurgents attacked the British soldiers in the southern province of Helmand at 4pm, according to statements from NATO and the British Ministry of Defense. One militant was killed in the fighting. The wounded soldier was evacuated for medical treatment.

Britain has nearly 4,000 troops deployed in Helmand as part of a NATO-led security force battling to bring security to turbulent southern Afghanistan.

Twenty-two British soldiers have died in the country since November 2001, 17 since this March when it moved into Helmand, also the hub of Afghanistan's world-leading heroin industry.

The province has seen the worst of the recent fighting, during the biggest upsurge in violence in nearly five years since the ouster of the hardline Taliban regime by US-led forces.

Militant supporters of the Islamist militia have stepped up attacks, rendering much of the south and east of the country a no-go zone for civilians. Insecurity has also spread to new provinces, such as Ghazni, where Taliban-led fighters are more active than in the past.

On Friday, suspected Taliban ambushed the chief of the central province's Muqur district, Habibullah Jan, as he traveled by car to the provincial capital, Abdul Ali Faqari, the Ghazni governor's spokesman, said. Four of his bodyguards were wounded in the attack.

In the east, a homemade bomb believed planted by Islamic extremists badly damaged a newly built co-ed school in Paktika Province on Friday, a US-led coalition statement said. At the time, no one was inside the school, which was due to open next week.

Taliban militants have attacked scores of schools in an effort to undermine the already-weak government of President Hamid Karzai. The attacks also appear motivated by ideological opposition to girls' education.

Meanwhile in the north, German military police arrested seven suspected insurgents from an SUV that subsequently exploded near the entrance of a military compound in the city of Mazar-e-Sharif on Friday, a NATO statement said. No one was hurt.

Police dogs had detected the explosives during a search and the area had been cordoned off before the blast happened, the statement said. The suspects will be handed over to Afghan authorities for prosecution, it said.

Meanwhile suspected Taliban killed three policemen and wounded two in an attack on a checkpoint in the south, police said yesterday.

The attack happened late on Friday in the Grieshk district of Helmand Province, according to district police chief, Ghulam Nabi Malakhail.