Archive for Thursday, August 28, 2003

U.S., Afghan forces retake mountain pass

August 28, 2003

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— American and Afghan forces Wednesday recaptured a mountain pass in southeastern Afghanistan, killing at least a dozen insurgents in tough fighting, a local official said.

Khalil Hotak, chief of the Zabul provincial intelligence service, said the U.S. and Afghan forces had reoccupied the Moray Pass, taking it from insurgents who fought with mortars and heavy machine guns.

U.S. and Afghan soldiers have been hunting Taliban guerrillas in Zabul province for the past three days, and province's governor said Wednesday that around 40 Taliban and three Afghan soldiers were killed in the campaign.

Gov. Zabul Hafizullah Hashami said Afghan forces took over two former Taliban camps in the district at Dozai, and that the heaviest fighting of the campaign -- at Dai Chupan -- was over, national television reported.

An insurgent camp was bombed Monday in Dozai, killing at least 14 people, according to U.S. and Afghan officials, although one local official put the toll much higher. It was apparently the deadliest U.S. air strike in Afghanistan since Taliban stepped up attacks against Afghan government targets in recent weeks.

The U.S. military said that one coalition special operation soldier was shot in the right shoulder during a firefight in neighboring Uruzgan province on Tuesday night.

Coalition aircraft -- including AV-8 Harriers, A-10 Thunderbolts and Apache helicopters -- fired on insurgents on Tuesday afternoon during clashes in Uruzgan, Col. Rodney Davis, spokesman for the U.S. military in Afghanistan, told a news briefing on Wednesday in the capital, Kabul.

He said coalition forces were continuing operations in Uruzgan as well as in neighboring Zabul and Kandahar.

"We will continue to do what we have been doing, that is take advantage of whatever intelligence we have and kill anti-coalition forces where we find them," he said.

Davis had no further details on casualties, and it was not possible to immediately confirm Hotak's report that 12 or more suspected Taliban were killed Wednesday.

Haji Granai, the military commander of the southern city of Kandahar, which is in the province adjacent to Zabul, said villagers in Dai Chupan told him they saw about 100 rebels retreating to the nearby Torzai mountains along with seven bodies.

"We will soon attack these Taliban in Torzai," Granai told The Associated Press from Dai Chupan, where he went to assess the situation.

The battles in a mountainous region between the three provinces follow a series of strikes by suspected Taliban against Afghan police and government officials in recent weeks, particularly in the south and east of the country.

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