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Coalition Forces Kill, Capture Militants in Afghanistan

American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, June 18, 2007 – Afghan and coalition forces killed several militants and detained seven others during operations in Afghanistan during the past two days. Meanwhile, seven Afghan children died during a coalition air strike.

Afghan and coalition forces detained five suspected militants in an operation early today against Taliban forces in the Sharan district of Paktika province. Credible intelligence led the forces to the suspected al Qaeda fighter safe house, where troops discovered suspected insurgents during a search, officials said.

In an operation in Paktika province’s Zarghun Shah district yesterday, Afghan and coalition forces killed several militants and detained two others, military officials said.

Coalition forces received credible information that a compound containing a mosque and a religious school was being used as an al Qaeda fighter safe house. Troops confirmed the presence of insurgent activity at the site before getting approval to conduct an air strike, military officials said.

Following the strike, residents of the compound confirmed that al Qaeda fighters had been present all day. As military officials reported earlier, seven children at the school died during the strike.

According to children who survived the air strike, the seven children who were killed were being held inside the building throughout the day. Witness statements taken early this morning claim the suspected terrorists prevented the children from leaving the compound by beating the young captives and pushing them away from the door if they attempted to flee.

“This is another example of al Qaeda using the protective status of a mosque, as well as innocent civilians, to shield themselves,” said U.S. Army Maj. Chris Belcher, a Combined Joint Task Force 82 spokesman. “We are saddened by the innocent lives that were lost as a result of militants’ cowardice.”

In another engagement, enemy fighters attacked Afghan National Police officers and coalition forces 10 miles southwest of the Sangin District Center, in Helmand province, early yesterday afternoon.

Combined forces repelled the initial attack with small-arms and artillery fire before requesting close-air support to suppress the enemy fighters.

Later that night, additional enemy fighters arrived from the west side of the Helmand River to reinforce several enemy positions in a trench line. The combined force maneuvered to defendable positions, then directed coalition helicopters and close-air-support aircraft to drop munitions on enemy positions.

Military officials said several dozen enemy combatants died during the prolonged battle. Two coalition members were injured during the fighting and were evacuated to a nearby medical facility for treatment.

In the Shah Wali Kot district of Kandahar province, 10 enemy fighters attacked Afghan national security and coalition forces near the village of Eybak. The coalition patrol returned fire and pursued the enemy fighters as they fled to an unoccupied compound. Enemy forces continued to fire upon the combined forces from inside the compound.

Coalition forces requested close-air support, which destroyed the enemy position with munitions. Several enemy fighters died during the five-hour battle, military officials said.

“Afghan national security and coalition forces will prevail against the enemy insurgents in the Sangin and Shah Wali Kot Districts,” Belcher said. “We will intensify our operations to rid both areas of insurgent fighters and prevent their return.”

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

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