US-led forces kill 15 militants, Afghans say victims were civilians
KABUL (AFP) – US-led coalition forces said Saturday they had killed 15 militants in an operation in eastern Afghanistan, as a NATO soldier and two civilians were killed in separate bomb blasts across the country.
The forces said they launched an operation in Mehtarlam, the capital of Laghman province, on Friday, targetting a Taliban commander believed to conduct "terrorist activities" in the capital Kabul, and Laghman and Kapisa provinces.
"Coalition forces killed 15 armed militants and detained one suspected militant during an operation to disrupt the Taliban's terrorist network in Laghman province," a coalition press statement said.
But local legislators put the number of dead at more than 20 and said they included women and children.
The head of the provincial council, Emadudin Abdulrahimzay, said 21 people were killed and their bodies found at different locations.
"They were all civilians, including two women and two children," he said.
Sayed Ahmad Safi, the spokesman for the provincial governor, confirmed the incident but gave another toll.
"Our initial findings show that more than ten people were killed including civilians. We don't know at this stage how many of them were civilians," he said.
The US forces said they targeted a Taliban commander known to traffic foreign fighters and weapons into the region to attack coalition forces, including a deadly assault on French troops in August 2008.
"As coalition forces approached the wanted militant's compound, several groups of armed militants exited their homes and began manoeuvring on the force," said the statement.
"Armed with AK-47s and rocket-propelled grenades, the militants engaged coalition forces from multiple directions," it said, adding one of the killed militants was a woman.
"She was killed while manoeuvring on coalition forces and was carrying a rocket-propelled grenade," the statement said.
In a statement released Saturday, NATO's International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) said one of its troops died in a bomb attack in the south of the country, but gave no further details.
"An ISAF serviceman was killed today in an... IED (improvised explosive device) attack in southern Afghanistan," said the statement released Saturday.
In another deadly attack Saturday, two civilians were killed and eight wounded when a suicide bomb ripped through a busy market in eastern Afghanistan, local officials and police said.
"The attacker was on foot, walking in the local bazaar when he exploded in the middle of the crowd," Sam Kanai district Governor Sadat told AFP.
Paktia province police chief Ghulam Dastaijeer said that the case was under investigation.
"We don't know what the target was," he said, adding that the bombing took place at around 4:00 pm (1130 GMT) and that no group had come forward to claim responsibility for the attack.
In the south, Taliban militants attacked a police post Friday night in Kandahar province sparking a battle in which three policemen died, local officer Abdul Wali said.
A Taliban spokesman, Yousuf Ahmadi, said the group killed 15 policemen in the attack.
Elsewhere on Friday, a roadside bomb blast struck a joint Afghan army and NATO forces convoy in western Farah province, killing an Afghan soldier and wounding five NATO troops, Farah governor Rohul Amin said.
NATO confirmed the incident.
The Taliban, an extremist Islamic group, ran the government in Kabul from 1996 to 2001 before being removed in a US-led invasion and are now waging a deadly insurgency that has picked up pace in the past three years.