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26 militants, two NATO soldiers killed in Afghan violence

by Staff Writers
Khost, Afghanistan (AFP) June 25, 2008
NATO warplanes and Afghan forces killed 26 militants, while two NATO soldiers died in separate attacks, officials said Tuesday.

The violence made June one of the bloodiest months so far in an insurgency launched by Taliban rebels after its ouster from government by US-led forces in 2001.

Several foreign militants were among the dead after the air strike early Tuesday by the NAT0-led International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) in the eastern province of Paktia, near the border with Pakistan, officials said.

Insurgents opened fire on the headquarters of the province's Sayed Karam district but were driven away after a gunbattle which caused slight damage to the building, provincial government spokesman Rohullah Samoon said.

"NATO helicopters then bombed the militants and killed 14 militants on the spot. Our policemen arrested another four wounded, and one of the wounded also died in hospital," Samoon told AFP.

Many of those killed were Pakistanis, Samoon said, adding that the wounded rebels were from Kuwait, Saudi Arabia and Turkey.

The rebel attack came a day after the separate US-led coalition said air strikes and clashes had killed 55 militants who ambushed a patrol in eastern Afghanistan.

Meanwhile, 11 Taliban militants and three policemen were killed after an attack by rebels on a police post in southern Kandahar province overnight, police said.

"We launched a counterattack today. Eleven Taliban have been killed so far and their bodies are on the ground," Juma Gul Hemat, the police chief of neighbouring Uruzgan province, told AFP.

He added that the fighting was ongoing.

Britain's Ministry of Defence meanwhile said one of its soldiers died in a firefight during an operation against Taliban militants in southern Helmand province.

Separately, a NATO soldier was killed and three others wounded after a landmine struck their patrol in eastern Afghanistan Tuesday, the alliance force said.

The incident took place in Nangarhar province's Khogyani district where more than 200 villagers had protested the alleged killing of two civilians a day earlier, ISAF said.

The latest fatalities bring to 101 the number of foreign soldiers killed in the country this year, according to an AFP tally.

Eastern Afghanistan borders Pakistan's lawless tribal regions, where Afghan and Western officials say the militants have "safe havens" which they use to launch cross-border attacks in Afghanistan.

Taliban attacks in eastern Afghanistan were up 40 percent in the first five months of 2008 compared with the same period last year, the US commander in the region said Tuesday.

"We've had about a 40 percent increase in 'kinetic events': we define those as the number of enemy attacks that we've had on our coalition and our Afghan partners," US Army Major General Jeffrey Schloesser told reporters during a teleconference from Afghanistan.

"This number was not unexpected," he continued, adding that the frequency of attacks had increased each year since 2002. "The enemies are aggressively burning schools, killing teachers and students."

Violence in Afghanistan is on the upswing, despite the presence of some 70,000 troops multinational troops, some under US command, some under NATO.


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US military chief wants three more brigades to fight Taliban
Washington (AFP) June 23, 2008
The chief of the US military, Admiral Michael Mullen, said Monday he needed three more brigades in Afghanistan to battle Taliban fighters and train Afghan forces.

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