Insurgent attacks kill NATO soldier, wound 7 in Afghanistan

Sunday, August 27th 2006, 10:36 am
By: News On 6

KABUL, Afghanistan (AP) _ Insurgent attacks in southern Afghanistan left one NATO-led coalition soldier dead and seven wounded Sunday, while police killed 10 suspected Taliban militants who struck a government compound, officials said.

The soldier was killed in the southern Helmand province, a NATO statement said. It did not provide the soldier's nationality or details on the clash.

Another NATO soldier and six Afghan troops were wounded when mortar shells hit their base in neighboring Kandahar province early Sunday, the statement said. The soldiers were evacuated to a military medical facility for treatment.

The U.S. military said that a raid earlier this week that left eight people dead in eastern Afghanistan had killed an ``al-Qaida associate.''

Alam Zer, described as a commander of an Islamic extremist group led by warlord Gulbuddin Hekmatyar, was the target of the Thursday raid in eastern Kunar province, said Col. Tom Collins, the chief U.S. spokesman in Afghanistan.

President Hamid Karzai ordered a probe Friday into the killings after police officials said the raid killed civilians who were trying to resolve a feud. But Collins said that Zer ``had links in Pakistan and in the training and facilitating the movement of Arab fighters into Afghanistan.''

U.S. forces have been stepping up operations along Afghanistan's eastern border with Pakistan, where al-Qaida fugitives are believed to be at large along with allies from the toppled Taliban regime and extremists belonging to Hekmatyar's Hezb-e-Islami group.

``The aim of this operation was to capture Alam Zer, but it was his forces who fired on coalition forces and we returned fire,'' Collins told reporters.

Afghanistan is experiencing its worst violence since the 2001 ouster of the Taliban regime for hosting Osama bin Laden. More than 1,600 people, mostly militants, have died in the past four months, according to an Associated Press tally of violent incidents reported by U.S., NATO and Afghan officials.

On Saturday, a large number of militants attacked the Musa Qala district government compound in Helmand, provoking a clash with police that left 10 insurgents dead, said Ghulam Nabi Malakheil, provincial police chief.

Four rockets slammed into west Kabul on Sunday, one landing near a district police station and another damaging a house, said district police chief Gen. Zalmai Oryakail. Nobody was injured.

Kabul has been spared most of the violence that has engulfed Afghanistan's south and east, but a series of bombings and attacks on NATO-led peacekeepers has rattled the nerves of its citizens.

On Saturday, Gen. John Abizaid, the commander of the U.S. Central Command, said ``it is clear'' that militants are using Pakistan to infiltrate Afghanistan. But he added he ``absolutely does not believe'' accusations of collusion between Pakistan's government and the resurgent Taliban rebels or other extremists.

``I think that Pakistan has done an awful lot in going after al-Qaida, and it's important that they don't let the Taliban groups be organized in the Pakistani side of the border,'' Abizaid told reporters in Bagram, site of the main U.S. military base in Afghanistan.

Afghanistan has repeatedly criticized Pakistan for not doing enough to prevent Taliban militants and other rebels crossing the poorly marked border.

Pakistan, a former Taliban supporter but now a U.S. ally in its war on terrorism, says it does all it can to tackle insurgents and has deployed 80,000 troops along the frontier.

Armed men ambushed a bus transferring 30 prisoners from Kandahar to Kabul on Sunday, killing a prison official and wounding a policeman, said Noor Mohammad Paktin, police chief of southern Zabul province, where the attack occurred.

Some prisoners fled but were quickly recaptured and taken to Kabul, Paktin said. It was not clear who the prisoners were.