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thedrifter
04-04-03, 11:29 AM
Friday April 4, 2:29 AM
Twenty 'Taliban' killed in fresh Afghan offensive

Pro-government militia forces killed 20 suspected Taliban in a new offensive in southern Afghanistan while US warplanes pounded extremists holed up nearby.

"Following the interrogation of suspects captured in the operation north of Kandahar we could identify a new base in the Haba moutnains," said Gul Agha, governor of the southern province of Kandahar.

"We launched a raid on this base, 20 Taliban were killed and three of our soldiers were killed in the fighting."

Last week Agha launched operations against suspected Taliban north of Kandahar city following the murder of Red Cross worker Ricardo Munguia.

Meanwhile US warplanes bombed a group of 40 suspected Taliban fighting Agha's forces in the adjacent Torghar mountains, a military spokesman told reporters at Bagram Air Base north of Kabul.

"A single US Special Forces 'A' detachment... was observing an Afghan militia force (AMF) operation in the vicinity of Torghar mountains at approximately 1:30 pm (0900 GMT) yesterday when Special Forces and the AMF received fire from the approximately 40 anti-coalition militia that we have reason to believe are associated with the Taliban," US Colonel Roger King said.

The dozen Special Forces troops and around 250 soldiers loyal to governor Agha Thursday cleared the suspected Taliban dug in at the mountains north of the town of Spin Boldak on the border with Pakistan.

"The Special Forces called for close air support and throughout the night multiple aircraft platforms provided this close air support to the Special Forces and AMF in the mountains," King said.

Thunderbolt II aircraft, AC-130 gunships, AV-8 Harriers, Apache helicopters and B-1 bombers directed a total of 35,000 pounds (15.9 tonnes) of ordnance at the suspected Taliban, King said.

"AMF forces, accompanied by a US Special Forces detachment, cleared the area of Torghar today. On the mountain they found evidence of enemy forces, including several blood trails, improved fighting positions, and previously occupied caves," spokeswoman US Captain Alayne Cramer said in a statement late Thursday.

"One enemy KIA (killed in action) was found and 11 persons were taken under control by the Afghan forces," she said.

"They also found two PKM machineguns with a large amount of ammunition, improvised explosive devices and bomb-making materials."

An Afghan soldier was evacuated with a gunshot wound to his abdomen but there were no reports of US casualties.

Regarding reports that Taliban were regrouping for a major offensive, King said the coalition would welcome such a move.

"If they want to come together in a group of 100 and say 'Hi we are here', I'm all for it, it is easier to kill them when they do that," he said.

Kandahar was the heartland of the hardline Taliban militia until it was ousted by US-led forces in late 2001 following the September 11 attacks masterminded by al-Qaeda leader and Taliban "guest" Osama bin Laden.

At Bagram a deminer lost his right foot while working on the east side of the base Wednesday afternoon, King said. The deminer, who worked for Ronco Consulting Corp. -- a demining firm contracted by the US military, was in a stable condition.

Meanwhile, Chapman Air Field in Khost, eastern Afghanistan, came under attack from three suspected rockets Wednesday night. There were no injuries or damage, he said.

US and Afghan pro-government forces frequently come under attack from suspected Taliban and al-Qaeda fighters.

Some 11,500 coalition troops, including 8,500 US forces, are engaged in hunting down al-Qaeda and Taliban remnants, mostly in southern and eastern Afghanistan.

Sempers,

Roger