Kabul Troops Die in Ambush and Taliban Claims Role

The New York Times

August 25, 2003

Kabul Troops Die in Ambush and Taliban Claims Role


KABUL, Afghanistan, Aug. 24 Afghan officials have reported another attack on their troops in the southeastern part of the country, as five government soldiers died on Saturday when a military truck was ambushed by suspected Taliban fighters.

Three of the attackers were killed in the clash and two were captured, the governor of Zabul Province, Hafizullah Khan, said in a telephone interview.

In a telephone call to The Associated Press, the Taliban appeared to claim responsibility for the attack, saying that Taliban forces had killed 12 government soldiers and that the guerrillas had suffered no casualties.

The fighting seemed to involve the same group of guerrillas that clashed with government troops in the neighboring province of Oruzgan on Friday. In that battle, four soldiers and two guerrillas were killed, Khalid Pashtun, a government spokesman in the southern province of Kandahar, told Reuters. The group of guerrillas numbered about 50 and was operating in a mountainous area straddling Zabul and Oruzgan Provinces, Mr. Pashtun said.

The attacks are the latest in a growing wave of violence by suspected Taliban guerrillas against government forces in southern and eastern Afghanistan in recent weeks that has killed dozens of government soldiers.

The governor of Oruzgan Province reported that his troops and a group of suspected Taliban supporters fought for three hours on Friday.

Afghan officials say Taliban fighters have regrouped in Pakistan and are organizing the attacks from there, sending militants across the border in increasing numbers to attack government soldiers and offices. Mr. Khan, the Zabul governor, said one of the captured prisoners admitted to being offered money in Pakistan to go to Afghanistan to fight.

In a sign of the concern caused by a possibly resurgent Taliban, a group of Americans led by Senator John McCain raised the issue last week.

On his way to a meeting in Pakistan with President Pervez Musharraf, Mr. McCain told journalists in Kabul that Pakistan was "not doing as much as it can" to stem the cross-border infiltration.

"We are appreciative of the help that Pakistan has given us in the war on terror and in other ways, but we believe that more measures can be taken," he said, after meeting with the Afghan President, Hamid Karzai, in Kabul on Friday.

Pakistan confirmed that Mr. Musharraf discussed the issue with the American delegation during a meeting in the city of Rawalpindi, near the capital, Islamabad.

"The president reiterated to the U.S. delegation that Pakistan would not tolerate any terrorist activity across its borders," the Foreign Ministry said in a statement issued after the meeting. Mr. Musharraf also emphasized that Pakistan and Afghanistan must share intelligence in a timely way, the ministry said.

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