53 killed after Taliban attacks Afghan town

53 killed after Taliban attacks Afghan town

KANDAHAR – Hundreds of Taliban insurgents launched an attack on a town in the southern Afghan province of Helmand, and 13 policemen and 40 Taliban were killed in hours of fighting, government officials said yesterday.

Helmand’s deputy governor, Amir Mohammad Akhundzada, said it was the biggest strike in the province by the hardline Islamists since they were driven from power in late 2001. The Taliban have stepped up attacks on foreign and Afghan government forces in recent months as thousands more NATO peacekeepers arrive.Violence in parts of the country is the worst it has been since the end of their rule.The attack on the the town of Mosa Qala, 470 km southwest of Kabul, was launched on Wednesday evening and the fighting went on until early on Thursday.”Thirteen policemen were killed and six were injured,” Interior Ministry spokesman Yousuf Stanizai said in a statement.”Forty people on the enemy side were killed.”In a separate incident, a suicide car bomber attacked a convoy in the generally peaceful western city of Herat, killing himself and an American civilian.A US embassy spokesman said he was a State Department contractor training Afghan police.Another suicide bomber attacked a US military convoy near Ghazni town, 125 km southwest of the capital, Kabul, killing himself and a man on a motorcycle but causing no casualties among US troops, an Afghan army officer said.The Taliban claimed responsibility for the Herat attack but there was no immediate claim for the second suicide blast.A Canadian woman soldier was killed in fighting in neighbouring Kandahar province on Wednesday, hours before Canada’s parliament narrowly backed a two-year extension of Canada’s Afghan mission to 2009.The US military said 18 Taliban were killed and 26 captured in the fighting in Panjwai district, 25 km west of Kandahar town.In Helmand, Afghan forces were battling the insurgents after they withdrew from Mosa Qala, Akhundzada said.There had been civilian casualties but he said he did not know how many.British troops are in charge of security in Helmand but no foreign soldiers were involved in the battle, Afghan officials said.The Taliban focused their attack on government offices and police stations, and many shops in the town’s market caught fire during the battle, Akhundzada said.The town is 40 km north of the province’s Sangin district, the scene of frequent clashes between Taliban and foreign and government forces.A Taliban commander, speaking by telephone, said 30 policemen had been killed.Taliban spokesman Qari Mohammad Yousuf told the Pakistan-based Afghan Islamic Press news agency Taliban had captured the town but later withdrew.- Nampa-ReutersThe Taliban have stepped up attacks on foreign and Afghan government forces in recent months as thousands more NATO peacekeepers arrive.Violence in parts of the country is the worst it has been since the end of their rule.The attack on the the town of Mosa Qala, 470 km southwest of Kabul, was launched on Wednesday evening and the fighting went on until early on Thursday.”Thirteen policemen were killed and six were injured,” Interior Ministry spokesman Yousuf Stanizai said in a statement.”Forty people on the enemy side were killed.”In a separate incident, a suicide car bomber attacked a convoy in the generally peaceful western city of Herat, killing himself and an American civilian.A US embassy spokesman said he was a State Department contractor training Afghan police.Another suicide bomber attacked a US military convoy near Ghazni town, 125 km southwest of the capital, Kabul, killing himself and a man on a motorcycle but causing no casualties among US troops, an Afghan army officer said.The Taliban claimed responsibility for the Herat attack but there was no immediate claim for the second suicide blast.A Canadian woman soldier was killed in fighting in neighbouring Kandahar province on Wednesday, hours before Canada’s parliament narrowly backed a two-year extension of Canada’s Afghan mission to 2009.The US military said 18 Taliban were killed and 26 captured in the fighting in Panjwai district, 25 km west of Kandahar town.In Helmand, Afghan forces were battling the insurgents after they withdrew from Mosa Qala, Akhundzada said.There had been civilian casualties but he said he did not know how many.British troops are in charge of security in Helmand but no foreign soldiers were involved in the battle, Afghan officials said.The Taliban focused their attack on government offices and police stations, and many shops in the town’s market caught fire during the battle, Akhundzada said.The town is 40 km north of the province’s Sangin district, the scene of frequent clashes between Taliban and foreign and government forces.A Taliban commander, speaking by telephone, said 30 policemen had been killed.Taliban spokesman Qari Mohammad Yousuf told the Pakistan-based Afghan Islamic Press news agency Taliban had captured the town but later withdrew.- Nampa-Reuters

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