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31 US troops die as Afghan Taliban down helicopter
by Staff Writers
Puli Alam, Afghanistan (AFP) Aug 6, 2011

Bomb destroys 16 NATO tankers in Pakistan
Peshawar, Pakistan (AFP) Aug 6, 2011 - A bomb destroyed at least 16 tankers on Saturday carrying fuel for NATO troops in neighbouring Afghanistan, Pakistan police said, the latest in a string of attempts to disrupt supplies.

A total of 28 NATO oil tankers were parked at a terminal on the outskirts of Peshawar, the main city in Pakistan's northwest, at the time of the explosion, which triggered a fire that engulfed 16 of the vehicles.

"We are trying to move away other oil tankers. We are not clear whether the bomb was planted in the terminal or with a tanker," police official Khurshid Khan told AFP from the site. "Sixteen tankers were completely destroyed."

There were no reports of any casualties, he added.

Mohammad Ijaz Khan, another senior police officer in Peshawar, said fire fighters were frantically trying to control the blaze. He said three explosions were heard before the fire swept through the parked tankers.

No group has claimed responsibility but the Taliban have in the past said they carried out such attacks to disrupt supplies for more than 130,000 US-led international troops fighting in Afghanistan.

Taliban and Al-Qaeda-linked militants frequently launch attacks across northwestern Pakistan and the lawless tribal belt on the Afghan border, which Washington has branded the most dangerous place in the world.

Most supplies and equipment required by soldiers in Afghanistan are shipped through Pakistan, although US troops increasingly use alternative routes through Central Asia.

Thirty-one US special forces died in Afghanistan when the Taliban shot down their helicopter, officials said Saturday, the deadliest incident for foreign troops in the decade-long war.

The Americans were killed alongside seven Afghan soldiers during an anti-Taliban operation late Friday when a rocket fired by the insurgents struck their Chinook helicopter in Wardak province, southwest of the capital Kabul.

The death toll was given in a statement from Afghan President Hamid Karzai's office and was not immediately confirmed by the NATO-led International Security Assistance Force (ISAF).

"The president of the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan expresses his sympathy and deep condolences to US President Barack Obama and the family of the victims," it said.

The Afghan defence ministry said the local troops who died were also special forces.

Twenty-five of the dead were US Navy SEALs, US television network ABC News reported. The Pentagon declined to comment on the cause or number of deaths.

The strike was by far the worst to hit foreign troops since American and other international forces invaded Afghanistan to oust the Taliban in 2001 in the wake of the September 11 attacks.

The previous biggest death toll saw 16 American soldiers killed in 2005 when a Taliban rocket hit their Chinook in the eastern province of Kunar.

One man who said he witnessed Friday's crash, Mohammad Saber, told AFP that the helicopter plummeted during a late-night operation in his village.

"At around 10:00pm last night (1730 GMT), we heard helicopters flying over us," he said.

"We were at home. We saw one of the helicopters land on the roof of a house of a Taliban commander, then shooting started.

"The helicopter later took off but soon after taking off it went down and crashed. There were other helicopters flying as well."

Wardak provincial spokesman Shahidullah Shahid said the crash happened in Sayd Abad district during an operation against Taliban insurgents who have been waging war on pro-government forces since being toppled from power in 2001.

"The US chopper that crashed last night was shot down by the Taliban as it was taking off," he said. "A rocket fired by the insurgents hit it and completely destroyed it."

He added that the helicopter had broken into several parts.

The Afghan army commander for the region, General Abdul Razeq, also said the helicopter was "shot down by a rocket fired by the enemy."

A spokesman for ISAF said it would issue a statement "at an appropriate moment."

Taliban spokesman Zabiullah Mujahid said the insurgent group was responsible for shooting down the helicopter, which he said was an American Chinook, and acknowledged that eight insurgents had been killed.

A Western military source speaking on condition of anonymity also confirmed the helicopter type.

Chinooks are widely used by coalition forces in Afghanistan for transporting large numbers of troops and supplies around the war zone.

Elsewhere in eastern Afghanistan Saturday, ISAF said another helicopter made a "precautionary landing" in Khost province, near the border with Pakistan.

A spokesman added that no-one on board was killed and there were no reports of serious injuries. There were no reports of insurgent activity in the area at the time.

The latest deaths take the total number of foreign troops killed in Afghanistan this year to 342, according to an AFP tally based on the independent website iCasualties.org. Of those, 279 were from the United States.

There are currently about 140,000 foreign troops in Afghanistan, around 100,000 of them from the US.

Some troop withdrawals have already begun as part of a process which is due to see all foreign combat forces leave the country by the end of 2014, although the Taliban are still waging a bloody insurgency.

US special forces play a key role in the war against the Taliban and other insurgents by hunting down and killing fighters in targeted night raids.

Foreign troop commanders say the east of Afghanistan, close to Pakistan where insurgents have hideouts, will likely increasingly overtake the south as the focus of the war in coming months.

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Eight Afghans killed in air strike, official claims
Kandahar, Afghanistan (AFP) Aug 6, 2011 - Afghan civilians may have been caught up in a NATO air strike against suspected Taliban insurgents, a foreign military spokesman said Saturday, amid claims up to eight civilians died.

A local official said that an imam, his wife and their six children were killed by an air strike in Nad Ali district in southern Afghanistan's Helmand province Friday.

The incident appears to be the latest in which Afghan civilians have been accidentally killed by NATO military operations. The issue is highly sensitive in Afghanistan after nearly ten years of war.

Explaining what happened, district governor Shadi Khan said: "A group of Taliban attacked a foot patrol of NATO forces.

"Subsequently, an air strike targeted the house of an imam of a mosque in the area. As a result the imam, his wife and six of their children were killed."

A spokesman for the NATO-led International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) in Kabul said foreign troops had been to discuss the incident with local elders.

"A coalition patrol was attacked by insurgents armed with RPGs (rocket-propelled grenades) and small arms fire in Nad Ali district," the spokesman said.

"The coalition forces responded with small arms fire and they continued with an air strike against the positions of insurgents.

"Shortly after the engagement, ISAF learned that civilians had been held captive by insurgents and may have been present during the strike."

Helmand provincial spokesman Daud Ahmadi said he was "aware that there have been some civilian casualties as a result of a NATO air strike in Nad Ali district" and that an official delegation had been dispatched to investigate.

ISAF insists it takes all measures possible to limit the number of civilian casualties in its operations in Afghanistan.

But the issue has in the past provoked angry protests and in March, President Hamid Karzai appeared to say that foreign troops should stop all operations in Afghanistan because of the issue.

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Pakistani officers face negligence charges
Karachi, Pakistan (UPI) Aug 5, 2011
Three Pakistani military officers face a court-martial on charges of negligence after a deadly militant attack on a naval base in Karachi in May. Ten soldiers died and 15 were wounded in the suspected Taliban attack on the Mehran naval air base. The siege started at 10:30 p.m., May 22, and the military ended the operation after 17 hours of fighting during which they freed more th ... read more

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