Taliban attack road crew in southern Afghanistan, 7 bodies retrieved

By Amir Shah, AP
Friday, August 20, 2010

Bodies recovered after attack on Afghan road crew

KABUL, Afghanistan — At least seven members of a road construction crew were killed when they were attacked by insurgents in southern Afghanistan, officials said Friday.

The attack occurred Thursday around the Sangin and Nahri Sarraj districts of Helmand province. The deputy police chief of Helmand province, Kamaluddin Khan, said officials were investigating reports that 35 people — road crew workers and insurgents — were killed and 19 wounded. He said he couldn’t confirm the reports because police were unable to enter the area, which is under Taliban control.

The bodies of seven road workers were taken to a hospital in the provincial capital of Lashkar Gah, said Enayatullah Ghafari, the hospital director. All died of bullet wounds, he said.

Lt. Col. Chris Hughes, a spokesman for the NATO military coalition in southern Afghanistan, confirmed five road workers had died. He said NATO sent a quick-reaction force of international and Afghan security personnel to the scene Thursday afternoon when the fighting ended.

Construction crews in Afghanistan are often escorted by armed guards.

Also Friday, NATO reported three more international soldiers — including one American — had been killed in the south. The nationalities of the two other victims were not released. They died in a roadside bombing Friday and the American was killed Thursday, officials said.

The deaths brought to at least 18 the number of American troops killed so far this month and 31 for the entire multinational force.

Afghan soldiers fought an intense, two-hour firefight Friday around an Afghan outpost in the Zhari district of Kandahar province, officials and witnesses said. The battle ended after a U.S. A-10 “Warthog” jet swooped down and made three strafing runs, firing at insurgents besieging the outpost.

Reporters saw two wounded Afghan soldiers evacuated by helicopter but no other details were available.

Four American soldiers were wounded Friday when a bomb exploded near their vehicle in Zhari. A U.S. spokesman, Capt. Kelvin Acosta, said the four were in stable condition after the attack, which spun around their heavily armored vehicle.

A civilian supply convoy was hit by small-arms fire Friday as it passed by the U.S. Howz-e-Madad base in Zhari. The attack occurred on Highway 1, which is targeted almost daily by the Taliban.

The area is under virtual control of the Taliban with no Afghan government presence.

Elsewhere in Kandahar, an Afghan civilian was found dead and tied to a sign between two bombs, NATO said. The man had been shot in the head before being tied up and the bombs appeared to have been intended to kill anyone trying to remove the body, a NATO statement said.

Separately, NATO said Friday that a deputy commander in an al-Qaida-linked insurgent group was apprehended in an overnight operation in eastern Afghanistan that claimed the life of a woman.

NATO said the deputy commander, who was captured by a joint Afghan and coalition force in Khost province, ran weapons for the Haqqani network and reported directly to the group’s senior leaders across the border in Pakistan. U.S. officials have described the Haqqani network as the most potent threat to American forces in Afghanistan.

When the troops arrived at the scene, they saw two men running from the targeted compound to another nearby. They fired after seeing someone point a weapon out a window, NATO said. Inside the room, they found a dead woman and another with a minor injury. An AK-47 was next to the female victim and a rifle and another AK-47 were also found in the building, NATO said.

“Afghan and coalition forces do not intentionally target women and we take these incidents very seriously,” said U.S. Army Col. Rafael Torres, a spokesman for the coalition. “We are taking a step-by-step approach in investigating what happened during this operation.”

Troops at the scene treated the wounded woman, who was later evacuated along with two male relatives to a coalition medical facility.

While questioning the men at the scene, the joint security force identified and detained the deputy commander along with several suspected insurgents, NATO said. In the compound where the commander was captured, the joint security force found an AK-47, a rifle, seven grenades, six magazines and an ammunition belt, it said.

Also in the south, an assistant police chief was killed by a roadside bomb Thursday and three other policemen were wounded when insurgents attacked a police post in the Dihrawud district of Uruzgan province, according to Gulab Khan, the deputy provincial police chief. Three civilians were killed in the same district Thursday by a bomb that was meant for another police official, district chief Khalfa Sadat said.

Associated Press writer Mirwais Khan in Kandahar contributed to this report.

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