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October 31, 2007

Taliban Dien Phu: 250 Taliban Surrounded Outside of Kandahar

Target-rich environment:

Afghan civilians piled belongings onto trucks Wednesday and fled two villages infiltrated by hundreds of Taliban militants outside Afghanistan's second-largest city. U.S., Canadian and Afghan troops had about 250 of the insurgents surrounded.

The troops killed 50 militants in three days of fighting 15 miles north of Kandahar city, the provincial police chief said. Three policemen and one Afghan soldier also died.

"The people are fleeing because the Taliban are taking over civilian homes," Sayed Agha Saqib said. "There have been no airstrikes. We are trying our best to attack those areas where there are no civilians, only Taliban."

Saqib said 250 militants were surrounded, and 16 suspected Taliban have been arrested.

The fighters moved into the Arghandab district of Kandahar province this week, about two weeks after the death of a tribal leader, Mullah Naqib, who had kept Taliban fighters out of his region. President Hamid Karzai traveled to Kandahar for Naqib's funeral.

"He was a good influence for his tribe. He was supporting the government," Saqib said of Naqib. "After he died the Taliban were thinking they would go to Arghandab and cause trouble for Kandahar city. But now they're surrounded and they're in big trouble."

The gathering of fighters on the doorstep of Kandahar — the Taliban's former power base — is reminiscent of last year's battle in neighboring Panjwayi district, one of the biggest fights in Afghanistan since the 2001 U.S.-led invasion.

NATO officials have said hundreds of Taliban tried to overrun Kandahar last year. But Saqib said he did not believe the militants occupying the villages of Chaharqulba and Sayedan would attempt a run on Afghanistan's main southern city.

"We are capturing and killing them and I don't think it will cause any problem for Kandahar," he said.


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posted by Ace at 08:29 PM

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