Friday, March 23, 2007

Afghan Forces Kill 69 Taliban Militants

KABUL, March 23 (Reuters) - At least 89 people, including 69 Taliban rebels, were killed in two days of fighting in Afghanistan, officials said on Friday, as violence soared with the onset of spring.
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The Islamist rebels were killed in fighting with Afghan forces in the south on Thursday after the troops, backed by NATO forces, launched an offensive against the rebels in two areas in Girishk district of Helmand province.
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Seven policemen were also killed and 19 Afghan soldiers wounded, Defence Ministry spokesman Zahir Azimi told a news conference, adding troops had begun a "cleaning up operation" after the attacks. "Even though our forces did not have enough equipment like tanks and armed vehicles but with the weapons that they had ... they could inflict heavy losses on the enemy in several hours of fighting," Azimi said. He said many rebel bodies still remained on the battlefield while the Taliban had taken away 10 of their fallen comrades. Seventeen guerrillas had also been arrested, Azimi added. Elsewhere, 12 private Afghan security guards and an Afghan driver were killed in the southern province of Kandahar on Friday when the Taliban ambushed their convoy of supplies for coalition troops, their Afghan contractor said.
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Fighting has intensified across Afghanistan after winter and analysts say 2007 is a make-or-break year for the Taliban as well as their opponents. Last year was the bloodiest since the hardline Islamists were ousted by U.S.-led forces in 2001. NATO and the Afghan armed forces have launched their largest offensive ever in Helmand, targeting the Taliban and drug lords who are reaping record crops for the second year running. Operation Achilles in northern Helmand involves 4,500 NATO troops and 1,000 Afghans.
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A statement from the coalition said NATO troops provided flank protection, air support and medical evacuation during Thursday's offensive. "This particular component of Operation Achilles is being conducted to put pressure on Taliban extremists, foreign terrorists and their narco-trafficking criminal associates that continue to operate within the general population," it said. Helmand is the main drug-producing region of Afghanistan, the world's leading producer of heroin.
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Separately, a suicide bomber attacked a convoy of Western troops in the eastern province of Nangarhar on Friday and at least one soldier, a woman and a child were wounded, witnesses and officials said. (Source: Reuters AlertNet)
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Photo: Battalion 3 of the Afghan National Army marches inside the Kabul Military Training Center. The facilities were renovated by the U.S. Army
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Forces from NATO mission rescue flood victims in Afghanistan
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Iranian president cancels speech before UN Security Council
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US House of Representatives okays 2008 deadline for Iraq pullout
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British and Afghan forces flex their muscles in Musa Qaleh
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TAC helps Army rebuild Afghan forces


2006 Aug: Camp Bastion, Southern Afghanistan ~ Paratroopers and soldiers of the
Royal Irish Regiment prepare to board an RAF Chinook for Operation Atomi, to Musa Qaleh.


Somewhere in Iraq: Royal Irish Regiment soldier proudly flying the former flag of Northern Ireland (flag from 1953-72)


An armed Land Rover of 1st Battalion The Royal Irish Regiment advances past an oil well set alight by Iraqi insurgents (sometime in 2003).


Mechanic Spc. Keith Wright, B Company, 27th Brigade Support Battalion works on a Humvee. (U.S. Army photo by 1st Lt. Kendra Evers, 27th Brigade Support Battalion)

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