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Troops in Afghanistan Thwart Ambushes, Kill Scores of Enemy Fighters

American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, July 26, 2007 – Afghan and coalition forces repelled three insurgent ambushes, killing scores of enemy fighters in Afghanistan over the past two days.

Coalition forces delivered a blow to Taliban fighters after insurgents attempted to ambush troops north of the city of Keshay, in Oruzgan province, this morning.

Combined forces led by an element of 1st Brigade, 205th Afghan National Army Unit, were on a combat patrol north of the city when an unknown number of insurgents attacked using small arms, machine guns, mortars and rocket-propelled grenades.

Afghan soldiers repelled the attempted ambush with small-arms fire and requested coalition close-air support to destroy the enemy positions. Coalition aircraft performed precision air strikes on three compounds confirmed as enemy positions.

Coalition forces immediately moved into the compounds to assess damage. Several insurgents died, and two were captured during the fighting. Troops collected hundreds of machine gun rounds, an AK47 assault rifle, a pistol, and eight grenades in a subsequent search.

One Afghan soldier died in the ambush. No Afghan civilian injuries were reported.

“The Afghan National Army is becoming increasingly capable of sustaining security and force development,” said Army Maj. Chris Belcher, a Combined Joint Task Force 82 spokesman. “Results such as today’s show why we are handing increasing responsibility over to them as they continue to transition to the long-term security force for Afghanistan.”

Elsewhere, Afghan soldiers and coalition advisors killed more than 50 enemy fighters during a combat patrol in Helmand province that turned into a battle that lasted more than 12 hours and finished early this morning.

Taliban insurgents engaged an element of 1st Brigade, 205th Afghan National Army Corps about 12.5 miles north of Qaleh-ye Gaz village. During the battle, insurgents attacked with heavy machine guns, rocket-propelled grenades and small arms from 16 separate compounds. Combined forces immediately returned fire and called in close-air support to destroy the enemy fighters within the compounds.

Coalition air support dropped two bombs where insurgents were packed most densely. Both compounds hit produced significant secondary explosions, suggesting a large quantity of explosive material was present in each. Insurgents routinely hide explosive material used to make improvised explosive devices in compounds within populated areas, military officials said.

More than 50 insurgents were confirmed killed, with an unknown number wounded. Sixteen Taliban compounds, three enemy motorcycles and five enemy trucks were destroyed, as well. Since July 22, more than 160 insurgents have been killed in the area, military officials said.

Besides one soldier who broke his hand, combined forces suffered no casualties, and no Afghan civilian injures were reported.

“The enemies of the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan continue to deliberately put innocent Afghans into harm’s way by attacking (Afghan National Army) and coalition forces in populated areas,” Belcher said. “We are taking every possible precaution to avoid harming non-combatants. Our aircraft engaged legitimate enemy targets during this engagement to minimize the potential of Afghan casualties.”

In Kandahar province yesterday, insurgents attempted another ambush on Afghan National Army soldiers but instead suffered scores of casualties.

A combined force consisting of elements of 2nd Battalion, 1st Brigade, 209th Afghan National Army, and a squad of Afghan National Police and coalition advisors were near Chenar Tu village when they were ambushed for the third time in two days by an unknown number of insurgents hiding within three compounds.

The insurgents attacked the patrol with rocket-propelled grenades, small arms and heavy machine guns. Combined forces repelled the attempted ambush with small-arms fire and requested coalition close-air support to destroy the enemy positions.

Coalition aircraft dropped a total of four bombs, one on each compound and one on insurgents outside of the compounds. Coalition forces released bombs only after positively identifying each insurgent position. More than 20 insurgents died during the engagement, military officials said.

Intelligence continues to suggest Taliban forces are attempting to re-assert their presence in northern Kandahar after their recent defeats from Afghan National Army and coalition operations in the area the past several weeks.

“Once again, the insurgents are purposefully attacking from civilian compounds, demonstrating their intentions to include Afghan civilians in their destructive actions,” Belcher said. “They continue to prove to the world that their statements of caring about preventing civilian casualties are hollow claims.”

In other news, Afghan National Border Police detained an insurgent equipment supplier yesterday along the Afghanistan-Pakistan border.

As the individual tried to cross into Pakistan in eastern Nangarhar province transporting Afghan National Army uniforms and equipment, he was questioned by border police. The suspect admitted he was planning to sell the uniforms and equipment to insurgents in Pakistan.

In accordance with standard procedures, the suspect was turned over to the Afghan National Police and will remain in custody until he faces criminal charges.

“The Afghan national security forces continue to do what Afghans have always done, which is fight and protect Afghanistan,” said Army Maj. Nick Sternberg, a coalition spokesman. “This arrest is just another example of the expanding capabilities and capacity of the (Afghan national security forces).”

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

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