Nine rebels dead in southern Afghan clashes

British troops killed nine suspected insurgents as Taliban militants ambushed a Canadian convoy in restive southern Afghanistan.

india Updated: Aug 22, 2006 18:51 IST

British troops killed nine suspected insurgents as Taliban militants ambushed a Canadian convoy and wounded two soldiers in restive southern Afghanistan, officials said on Tuesday.

Meanwhile US forces hunting an Al-Qaeda agent detained three men Tuesday in the east.

Insurgents were killed when British troops targeted them with high explosive ammunition in Naw Zad district of the southern Helmand province, said Maj Toby Jackman, a spokesman for the NATO-led force.

The Canadian soldiers were wounded late Monday in the Panjwayi district of southern Kandahar province, where 71 militants and five Afghan security forces were killed over the weekend.

In all, more than 100 people died --including four US troops and one British soldier-- in several days of intense fighting centred on southern Afghanistan that threatened NATO efforts to stabilise the volatile region where holdouts from the toppled Taliban regime are escalating violent attacks.

But in a sign that the government has not closed off channels of communication with their foes, authorities in the former Taliban stronghold of Kandahar returned the bodies of 22 militants slain in Panjwayi to their families through tribal elders on Monday.

Southern Afghanistan, where a NATO-led multinational force recently took control of security from a US-run coalition, has this year seen the bloodiest and fiercest fighting since the end of the Taliban rule in 2001.

Thousands of NATO and Afghan forces are battling Taliban fighters almost daily to extend the reach of President Hamid Karzai's US-backed government.

The two Canadians were wounded when insurgents ambushed their convoy in Panjwayi, said Maj Quentin Innis. There were no reports of militant casualties.

Insurgents also ambushed a police patrol in southeastern Ghazni province onTuesday, wounding four officers including a district police chief, said Abdul Ali Fakuri, the provincial governor's spokesman.

NATO and Afghan forces killed 14 militants on Sunday, including a local insurgent leader, in neighbouring Helmand province, NATO and Afghan officials said.

Three roadside bombs in Helmand and southeastern Khost province also killed five Afghan security forces, according to police.

US soldiers detained three suspects during a pre-dawn raid on Tuesday on a compound in Khost province's Paru Kheyl village "to capture a known Al-Qaeda facilitator," the American military said in statement.

It was unclear who the facilitator was or if he was among those captured.

Soldiers took into custody three men in the compound, while three more were released after questioning, the military said.

Troops also found weapons and ammunition.

Roughly 10,000 American soldiers are hunting Al-Qaeda militants allied to Osama bin Laden and other Islamic extremists throughout remote eastern Afghanistan regions bordering Pakistan.

First Published: Aug 22, 2006 17:04 IST