U.S.-led raid, suicide bomber kill at least 12 Afghans


  • World
  • Wednesday, 13 Dec 2006

KABUL (Reuters) - U.S.-led troops killed at least four people, including a teenage girl, in a raid in southeastern Afghanistan on Tuesday and a suicide bomber killed eight more in the south, residents, officials and coalition forces said. 

The target of the suicide bomber was the governor of Helmand, Mohammad Daud, who escaped unhurt, the officials said. 

Four police, two army soldiers and two civilians were killed in the attack in Lashkar Gah, the provincial capital of Helmand, a Taliban stronghold and the main drug-producing region of the world's leading heroin producer. 

"It was a suicide attack and the target was the governor," Helmand police chief Mohammad Nabi Mullahkhail said. 

The attack is the latest in the bloodiest year to have gripped Afghanistan since U.S.-led forces overthrew the Taliban government in 2001. 

A British Marine was killed when Taliban forces attacked a patrol in a district in Helmand, Britain's Ministry of Defence said, making a total of 43 British troops killed since 2001. 

There was no immediate claim of responsibility for the Helmand suicide attack, but Taliban militants have carried out many such raids across the country this year. 

Hours before the blast, U.S.-led forces killed at least four people in the southeastern province of Khost where the Taliban and their Islamic allies are highly active. 

But there were conflicting accounts about who was killed in the pre-dawn raid in Dornami village. 

Residents say the U.S.-led force, backed by Afghan militias, broke into a house, drawing fire from the occupants who thought they were thieves. Four people were killed and seven wounded -- all of them civilians, they said. 

The U.S.-led coalition said in a statement the raid killed five people -- four suspected terrorists and a young girl. The troops requested the surrender of those in the compound. 

HUMAN SHIELDS 

"The suspected terrorists refused to comply with verbal warnings and began firing," the statement said. 

"Enemies of the Afghan government continue to place women and children in harm's way by conducting illegal activities within common living areas, placing entire families at risk," the statement said. 

The U.S.-led coalition has about 8,000 troops under its command in Afghanistan while NATO leads about 32,000 soldiers. 

Thousands of civilians have been killed during fighting since the Taliban's ouster, a sensitive issue for the foreign forces and President Hamid Karzai's government, which largely relies on foreign funds and on foreign soldiers. 

The focus of the violence has been southern and eastern areas bordering Pakistan, the Taliban's main former supporter and still a sanctuary for the militants. 

On a rare trip to the southern city of Kandahar, Karzai told reporters he had urged NATO commanders to use all possible means to avoid civilian casualties. 

He also urged Pakistan to speed up proposed meetings of tribal chiefs aimed stemming the rising insurgency, saying the deterioration of security recently in Pakistan's border regions was because "terrorists nests are present there". 

Pakistan concedes there is some cross-border infiltration by militants, but says that the violence in Afghanistan is mainly due to the country's internal problems. 

The United States and other allies of both countries say a major problem with ending the Taliban rebellion is the guerrillas' ability to shelter in Pakistan. 

(With additional reporting and writing by Sayed Salahuddin) 

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