20 Taliban rebels killed in Afghanistan
Southern Afghanistan sees the worst of the violence linked to an insurgency launched by the Taliban after the movement was removed from power.india Updated: Jun 21, 2006 13:53 IST
Afghan forces said on Wednesday they killed 20 Taliban in southern Afghanistan, where British forces say they have encountered more rebels than expected, while six people died in an attack in the east.
Afghan and coalition forces attacked a Taliban hideout in Helmand province's Musa Qala district on a tip-off on Tuesday evening and set off three hours of fighting, General Rahmatullah Raufi, commander of the army's southern corps, told the agency.
"Twenty Taliban were killed in the operation. Their bodies with their weapons were left at the site," Raufi said. An Afghan army soldier was also wounded.
About 3,300 British are deployed in Helmand to help Afghan forces build security and work on reconstruction.
A senior commander told embedded reporters there on Tuesday that there were greater numbers of Taliban rebels putting up a fight in the province than expected.
British troops are however still more than a match for the militants as seen in clashes earlier this month, the commander told reporters at a British base in Lashkar Gah, the capital of Helmand province.
The British commander, speaking late on Tuesday on condition of anonymity, said the military had underestimated the strength of the hardline Islamic Taliban when it drew up plans to deploy in the restive southern region 16 months ago.
"I suppose the most significant difference has been the extent to which the Taliban have had some successes this year and are probably in slightly greater numbers then we might have expected after the excellent work done by our American predecessors," the commander said.
Quizzed on what he meant by the larger presence, the commander said he was talking about hundreds not thousands of rebels.
The Taliban have claimed to have 12,000 fighters in southern Afghanistan alone but an army officer has said the number was more like 5,000 Taliban fighters in the whole country.
Southern Afghanistan sees the worst of the violence linked to an insurgency launched by the Taliban after the movement was removed from power by a US-led coalition in late 2001.
There are however several attacks in the east, along the border with Pakistan where the leaders of the insurgency has said to have based themselves after they were expelled from Kabul.
On Tuesday a bomb fixed to a tanker supplying fuel to US forces in Afghanistan exploded as it crossed over from Pakistan, killing six people and gutting 10 trucks, a border police commander said.
The tanker exploded just after it crossed into Afghanistan at the Torkham border post, Mustafa Khan said.
The blast set alight a fuel tanker behind it and the fire spread to eight other trucks, including road construction vehicles and lorries.
Taliban militants often attack trucks supplying logistics to US bases in Afghanistan but this was one of the biggest offensives.