US planes bomb Taliban fighters

Published May 11, 2003

KABUL, May 10: US planes bombed a house in eastern Afghanistan on Saturday after a militiaman was killed and a US soldier wounded in an ambush by suspected Taliban fighters, a local official said.

The ambush happened on Friday about five kilometres west of the town of Khost, where several hundred US-led troops are based, said Hayatullah, a security official for Khost governor Hakim Taniwal.

At least one of the attackers was killed in a one-hour clash that followed the ambush. Government reinforcements surrounded a house where others suspected Taliban fighters had taken refuge.

“In the morning American planes came and badly destroyed it,” Hayatullah said, referring to the house.

It was not clear how many of the occupants were killed or wounded, he said.

The region was later surrounded by US troops and their Afghan allies. There were no details about the identities of the assailants, nor the number of casualties they had suffered.

Witnesses said they had seen US helicopters evacuating the dead and wounded.

A military vehicle carrying the soldiers was hit and caught fire, killing and wounding the occupants, one of the witnesses said.

Six helicopters arrived in the area soon after the hour-long firefight, which required reinforcements and an extensive US-led operation that continued on Saturday.

Some officials said there were apprehensions that the counter-attack by the US and Afghan forces had produced civilian casualties, feeding panic in the area.

Four rockets were fired on Friday on the US military base at Shkin, in the southeast province of Paktika, near the border with Pakistan.

Three or four individuals were spotted to the east of the base, racing towards Pakistani territory to flee the inevitable US response, the launch of 105 mm artillery weapons towards the “suspected point of origin” of the rockets, a US commander said.

It was the first time US aircraft had conducted an attack in Afghanistan in about six weeks.

US Deputy Secretary of State Richard Armitage was in Kabul on Friday to reiterate his government’s support for President Hamid Karzai.

There has been a spate of attacks in recent weeks blamed on supporters of the former Taliban.—Reuters\AFP

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