Some 100 Afghan rebels die in air strikes, battles
Suicide bomber hits NATO troops, kills 3 US soldiers
KABUL, Afghanistan -- US-led and Afghan troops battled suspected Taliban insurgents in southern Afghanistan yesterday in ground clashes and air strikes that left more than 100 militants dead, the coalition said.
In eastern Afghanistan, a suicide bomber attacked NATO troops helping to build a bridge, killing three American soldiers, a US official said. The official spoke on the condition of anonymity because not all of the families had been notified.
The battle in southern Kandahar Province's Shah Wali Kot district started after the joint force was ambushed by a large group of insurgents who tried to overrun their position several times, before being strafed by air strikes, the statement from the coalition said.
More than 100 suspected insurgents and an Afghan soldier were killed, coalition said. The casualty figures could not be independently verified because of the remoteness of the area.
Meanwhile, South Korean negotiators and Taliban leaders have reached an agreement that will allow for the release of 19 hostages from a South Korean church who have been held captive by Afghan insurgents for nearly six weeks, officials in Afghanistan said yesterday.
The hostages had not been released as of late yesterday, but officials said that they would be freed within the next few days and that both sides were satisfied with the terms of a deal.
"In the very near future, all of the hostages will be released. It is a comprehensive agreement," said Reto Stocker, head of the International Committee of the Red Cross delegation in Afghanistan, which helped to facilitate the negotiations.
The Taliban initially took 23 South Koreans hostage, but two were killed by their captors and two were released. The church members were abducted July 19 in the central Afghan province of Ghazni as they traveled by bus.
Cheon Ho Sun, South Korean presidential spokesman, explained the terms of the hostage deal.
"The two sides reached agreement on the release of all 19 Korean hostages on condition that the Korean government withdraws its troops in Afghanistan by the end of this year and bans missionary work by Korean Christians in Afghanistan," he said.
Material from the