Associated Fance Press 21/8/2006
Around 90 killed in bloody Afghan weekend
by Nasrat Shoaib
KANDAHAR, Afghanistan (AFP) - Nearly 90 people died in clashes in Afghanistan at the weekend, including more than 70 Taliban rebels killed in a battle in the south and four US soldiers and a British troop.
Most of the violence was in the south on Saturday where a NATO-led force took command three weeks ago in the alliance's toughest military operation yet. In the deadliest clash, scores of rebels attacked the town of Panjwayi in Kandahar province late Saturday, sparking a five-hour series of battles involving Afghan and NATO soldiers, who called in air and artillery support, officials said Sunday.
The Taliban stormed the town, 35 kilometres (20 miles) west of the main southern city of Kandahar, from three directions and began fighting with local police.
Reinforcements from the Afghan army and police and NATO's International Security Assistance Force surrounded the area and returned the attack, a police official said.
"We have 35 Taliban bodies in Panjwayi town and 11 out of the town," district governor Niaz Mohammad Sarhadi told AFP. Another 25 bodies were found in nearby Sperwan village, he said.
The defence ministry said it could confirm only 60 bodies had been found in Panjwayi town and Sperwan. An Afghan soldier and four policemen were also killed, the security forces said.
The area is the birthplace of the Taliban movement that was ousted from government nearly five years ago and has been joined by Al-Qaeda in a growing insurgency marked by suicide and roadside bombings.
Panjwayi has seen major clashes that have left scores of people dead this year, with security officials saying they are determined to root out rebel operatives there.
A suicide bomb in the town's bazaar on August 3 killed 21 civilians in one of the bloodiest such attacks in the insurgency.
Afghan officials also announced Sunday that six policemen and four Taliban rebels were killed when militants attacked a border police patrol in the western province of Nimroz Saturday.
The US-led coalition that helped to topple the Taliban in late 2001 announced on Saturday that four of its soldiers were killed in other clashes that day.
In one a bomb struck a unit of the US-led coalition force in hostile Pech district of the eastern province of Kunar. The rebels then opened fire with small arms and artillery.
Three US soldiers were killed and three wounded, coalition spokesman Colonel Thomas Collins told AFP.
In Uruzgan in the south, a US soldier training the national army and an Afghan soldier were killed in heavy fighting Saturday with up to 150 insurgents. Three other US soldiers were wounded.
And on Sunday a British soldier with ISAF was killed and three wounded when their patrol was engaged in a firefight in Helmand province, where the bulk of a British deployment of 4,750 troops is based.
ISAF, which has 21,000 troops from 37 nations, took command of the southern provinces from the coalition on July 31. Since then 14 of its soldiers have been killed, 10 of them in hostile action.
The coalition said the weekend attacks were "localised" and not part of a coordinated Taliban operation.
"It is not like they are mounting an offensive that is sweeping through the south," spokesman Major Thomas Collins told reporters in Kabul.
"There are these very local attacks that give the impression of an offensive but we don't see any command and control at the upper echelons of the Taliban that suggest there is some kind of campaign to take over certain areas."