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Six Taliban Fighters Killed in Afghanistan; Weapons Cache Destroyed

American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, April 9, 2007 – Coalition forces and Afghan National Army forces killed six Taliban combatants and destroyed a weapons cache in Afghanistan over the past two days.

Taliban fighters launched rocket and mortar fire at a combined Afghan national army and coalition base in the Cahar Cineh Valley of Oruzgan province today. A local Afghan woman near the base suffered shrapnel wounds to her chest and abdomen as a result.

Combined forces returned mortar fire at the Taliban fighters, who quickly retreated over a ridgeline, and coalition medics quickly stabilized the woman’s life-threatening wounds, U.S. officials said. The victim was evacuated to a medical facility in Tarin Kowt, where she is listed in stable condition. No other injuries to Afghan civilians were reported.

“Taliban fighters continue to inflict pain and suffering on innocent Afghan civilians,” said Army Maj. Chris Belcher, a Combined Joint Task Force 82 spokesman. “Taliban fighter tactics are no match for the determination and skill of (Afghan National Army) and coalition forces.”

In Afghanistan yesterday, six Taliban fighters fired a rocket-propelled grenade round into the side of an ANA vehicle as they drove past the combined forces patrol in the Sangin district of Helmand province. Coalition aircraft were notified and observed the Taliban-operated vehicle for several kilometers as it traveled out of the populated Sangin district area. After the vehicle had traveled a safe distance from Afghan civilians and structures, coalition forces destroyed the vehicle, killing all six of the Taliban fighters.

Also yesterday, ANA and coalition forces received small-arms and RPG fire from more than 10 Taliban fighters hiding in a compound on the Sangin district’s east side. The combined patrol returned small-arms fire at the Taliban fighters before maneuvering toward the compound. While searching the compound, combined forces discovered a large weapons cache containing an RPG and 82 mm rounds. The cache was destroyed at the site.

“Violent extremists have resorted to conducting unsuccessful cowardly attacks and suicide-bomb tactics in an attempt to strike fear in the hearts of the Afghan people,” Belcher said. “The ANA soldiers showed extreme proficiency and probably kept these extremists from harming innocent Afghans.”

Also in Afghanistan yesterday, Afghan national police assisted the 13th Psychological Operations Battalion during a bomb-defusing operation in Charikar. Explosive ordnance disposal technicians from Bagram Air Base defused a 250-pound Soviet bomb that fell on a village 18 –years ago. Due to the bomb’s potential blast radius, more than 70 villagers had to be evacuated to a safe zone, where Afghan police officers provided security and humanitarian aid.

“The people were very friendly, but unsure,” said Army Maj. Lance Baker, of the 13th Psychological Operations Battalion. “They didn’t want to leave their homes, (but) it’s our job to interface with local nationals, and our mission was to assist EOD and make sure the villagers don’t interfere with EOD’s mission.”

The Afghan National Police forces’ assistance was critical to the operation.

“We’re here for their security in case the insurgents attack,” said ANP Pvt. Safay Ullah. “Also, if we’re not here, people may not cooperate. They have respect for us.”

A village elder interviewed expressed gratitude. “We are always grateful when (they) help us,” he said.

(Compiled from Combined Joint Task Force 82 news releases.)

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