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Forces Kill 52, Capture 17 in Afghanistan Fighting

American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, April 6, 2009 – Coalition and Afghan forces have killed at least 52 insurgents and captured 17 others in four days of fighting in Afghanistan, military officials reported.

The firefights mostly have occurred in Afghanistan’s southern Helmand and Zabol provinces, where military officials say the Taliban is increasing its presence.

Afghan and coalition forces have killed at least 37 insurgents in Helmand since April 3, and 14 insurgents were killed in Zabol on April 4. Combined forces also killed one insurgent and captured eight others in the southern province of Kandahar on April 3. Bombing cells, illegal drug operations and foreign fighter trafficking have been disrupted.

In eastern Afghanistan, the combined forces captured a Taliban commander and three others in Khowst province on April 3, and detained four militants in Lowgar province on April 4.

A breakdown of operations since April 3 follows:

-- Afghan soldiers, assisted by coalition troops, killed two armed militants today in Helmand province’s northern village of Tarin Kowt. The combined force was on patrol in an area known for heavy militant presence when they were attacked with a barrage of small-arms fire.

The Afghan-led force called for close-air support and engaged the enemy fighting position with small-arms and mortar fire, killing two militants.

-- In eastern Afghanistan today, Afghan commandos, assisted by coalition forces, captured a militant suspected of planting a homemade bomb along a road in the Gardez district of Paktia province.

The combined force was departing a meeting with local leaders when they saw a suspicious man running from a motorcycle overturned in the road. The commandos pursued the man on foot and detained him. Upon searching him, they uncovered a battery pack and a remote control, most commonly used by militants for detonating explosives from a distance.

The forces discovered homemade bomb buried in the road and safely destroyed it in place. The militant was taken into custody.

-- Afghan and coalition forces killed 14 armed militants in the Qalat district of Zabol province April 4. The Afghan-led force was patrolling the area known for having a militant presence, when they were attacked by numerous armed militants with heavy small-arms and rocket-propelled grenade fire.

The combined force moved forward, closing in on the enemies’ position as Afghan soldiers recovered insurgent weapons. Inside a cave complex, they discovered a cache of bomb-making materials and several explosives, which they destroyed.

As the force pushed forward, a firefight ensued when militants re-engaged the patrol from four motorcycles and various fighting positions with small-arms and RPG fire. After positively identifying the armed militants and assuring there were no non-combatants in the area, the combined unit returned fire with small-arms and close air support, killing 14 militants.

-- Afghan soldiers, assisted by coalition forces, killed 15 militants and discovered a large bomb-making facility, drug lab and weapons cache during ongoing operations to disrupt militant activities in the Kajaki district of Helmand province Saturday.

The combined forces were conducting an early morning search of known insurgent compounds used for weapons and bomb-making materials trafficking, and as a safe-haven for insurgent fighters moving between Helmand and Oruzgan provinces.

During a search of one compound, the forces discovered a drug lab containing 5,000 pounds of poppy seeds used to produce opium, 10 bags of opium, scales and other drug paraphernalia.

A further search of the compound uncovered various weapons and ammunition, including one heavy machine gun with ammunition, two rocket-propelled grenades, body armor, mortar rounds, several containers of homemade explosives, and several bags of ammonium nitrate commonly used to make explosive.

A second compound nearby also housed a bomb-making facility containing ready-to-use suicide vests, a large amount of bomb-making materials and components. The facility, located near a mosque, appeared to have been strategically placed in order to deter detection and destruction. The building had extensive booby traps, and the combined forces were unable to retrieve the explosives from the building safely. After ensuring that no civilians were in the area and taking every precaution to minimize damage to surrounding buildings, the combined force destroyed the materials with a controlled detonation.

The combined forces received machine-gun, small-arms and RPG fire during the operation. They returned small-arms fire and, with air support, killed 15 militants.

-- One militant was killed and eight suspects were detained April 4 in Kandahar province during a joint operation to bring down a Taliban cell directly linked to the March explosions that killed four Canadian troops.

In Kandahar’s Arghandab district, Afghan and coalition forces raided a compound housing Taliban members. Immediately upon their arrival, the assault force encountered an armed militant who engaged them. The assault force returned fire, killing the man.

Afghan forces called out for all women and children to peacefully exit multiple buildings. With women and children moved to safety, forces questioned eight men suspected to be involved in bomb-making in Kandahar. All eight were detained.

When forces searched the compound, they found multiple weapons, munitions and bomb-making materials, all of which were destroyed.

Eleven women and 27 children were protected.

-- Afghan troops, assisted by coalition forces, killed 20 insurgents during one of a series of continuing operations in the Kajaki district of Helmand province April 3.

The combined forces were conducting a combat reconnaissance patrol in known Taliban stronghold when they were ambushed by numerous armed insurgents with mortar and small-arms fire.

The combined forces pursued the enemy in their fighting positions, returned fire and called in close-air support. They destroyed six enemy fighting positions and killed 20 insurgents.

-- Afghan and coalition forces detained four suspected insurgents during an April 4 operation in the Baraki Barak district of eastern Afghanistan’s Lowgar province to disable the Haqqani terrorist network there.

A combined force raided a compound to remove a local Haqqani tactical commander responsible for direct-fire ambushes, kidnappings and explosives operations. When the force arrived at the targeted compound, Afghan forces called for non-combatants to peacefully exit the buildings, with all occupants following the force’s directives. Without incident, four suspected militants were detained.

-- Afghan army commandos, assisted by coalition forces, captured a Taliban commander and three other insurgents April 3 in an early-morning raid of a compound in the Lagharah Valley of Khowst province.

The captured mid-level commander is believed responsible for facilitating suicide bombings and emplacing roadside bombs in the area. He is known to have aided in direct ambushes and bomb attacks on Afghan National Police and coalition forces. The compound has been used in the past to launch attacks against the people of Afghanistan, including the ordered burning of a school in Seekuun Village.

Three other militants believed to associate with and aid the Taliban commander also were detained.

No Afghan or coalition military or non-combatant civilians were reported wounded in any of the operations.

(From U.S. Forces Afghanistan news releases.)

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