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Taliban Continue Human Shield Tactics in Afghanistan

American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, July 1, 2007 – Taliban terrorists continue to use innocent civilians as shields, NATO officials in Afghanistan said today.

Afghan and American soldiers under International Security Assistance Force command participated in Operation Ghartse Ghar in Helmand province yesterday. The goal was to clear Taliban forces from both sides of the Helmand River in the village of Haderabad.

After battling enemy forces most of the day, Afghan and coalition forces came under heavy fire from enemy small arms, medium machine guns, 82 mm mortars and rocket-propelled grenades.

The Afghan and coalition forces identified several enemy positions during this exchange, including mortar positions, observation posts, compounds and a trench system. They returned fire and called in close-air support. All enemy positions were destroyed in the engagement.

Though Afghan and coalition forces appear to have fired at clearly identified firing positions, said Army Maj. Chris Belcher, spokesman for Combined Joint Task Force 82, there are reports of civilian casualties.

“After our forces surveyed the area, there are reports of some possible civilian deaths,” Belcher said. The troops found the remains of innocent civilians who were killed in firing positions in a trench line.

“We are deeply saddened by any loss of innocent lives,” Belcher said. “Insurgents are continuing their tactic of using women and children as human shields in close combat with friendly forces.”

In Ghazni province, Afghan and coalition forces detained a number of insurgents during an operation today.

No shots were fired and no one was injured in the operation.

Coalition forces acted on credible intelligence which indicated the location was a hideout for foreign fighters connected to the Haqqani network, officials said. The detainees will be questioned as to their identities and involvement in militant activities.

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

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