NATO helps to raise Taliban’s death toll
3 dozen insurgents are killed during 2 days of fighting
KABUL, Afghanistan — At least three dozen suspected insurgents were killed in two days of joint NATO and Afghan operations across Afghanistan, officials said yesterday, one of the highest death tolls reported in recent weeks for Taliban fighters.
Also yesterday, a day after President Obama reiterated US efforts to limit civilian casualties, NATO said it was investigating whether it had a role in the death of two civilians last weekend.
Lieutenant Colonel Todd Vician, a NATO spokesman, said allied forces fired five illumination rounds Sunday while pursuing Taliban suspects in an orchard in the Mizan district of southeastern Zabul province. He said a canister from one of the flares may have landed on the roof of an Afghan home and killed two people and injured two others.
At a news conference Wednesday in Washington with Afghan President Hamid Karzai, Obama said he was “ultimately accountable’’ for civilian deaths on the Afghanistan battlefield, and that the United States was doing everything possible to prevent them.
Civilian deaths caused by US-led NATO forces sour the relationship between Washington and Kabul, and Karzai has said many times that the allies have not done enough to prevent them.
Yesterday’s death toll of suspected Taliban was one of the largest insurgent casualty counts over a two-day period in recent weeks, according to an Associated Press tally. In March, two days of gun battles between the Taliban and loyalists of regional warlord Gulbuddin Hekmatyar’s Hezb-e-Islami group left at least 50 dead.
In one of the three operations spanning Wednesday and yesterday, special forces in three helicopters swarmed in on insurgents who had attacked a volunteer security force near the northern town of Kunduz, two regional police officials said.
The troops killed 31 insurgents, said provincial police chief General Abdul Razaq Yaqoubi. His deputy, Abdul Rahman Aqtash, said a Taliban commander was among those killed.
NATO said a joint Afghan and international security force killed more than two dozen insurgents while pursuing a senior Taliban commander in Kunduz. The alliance said the force entered a compound in the village of Kharid-e Olya, working on intelligence that Taliban fighters were preparing for a large attack.
In a second clash, NATO said, allied forces killed five insurgents late Wednesday after a joint patrol came under fire in the Sangin district of Helmand province while searching for a Pakistan-based Taliban commander.
Separately, in southeastern Ghazni province, NATO and Afghan forces stormed three villages in Qarabagh district, killing 14 militants, said provincial police chief Khial Baz Sherzai. Several were believed to be from outside Afghanistan, and police were investigating, he said. Sherzai said Taliban insurgents later recovered all of the bodies.