U.S. SAYS RAIDS KILLED TALIBAN; AFGHANS SAY CIVILIANS DIED
Abdul Waheed Wafa, New York Times
KABUL, Afghanistan, April 30 United States Special Forces said they
killed more than 130 Taliban in two recent days of heavy fighting in a
valley in western Afghanistan, but hundreds of angry villagers
protested in nearby Shindand on Monday, saying dozens of civilians had
been killed when the Americans called in airstrikes.
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The Reach of War
Go to Complete Coverage » The protesters sacked and burned government
buildings, said Noor Khan Nekzad, a spokesman for the provincial
police. He said none of the demonstrators were injured, but news
reports said a number of protesters were hurt as the police and the
army moved in to subdue the crowd.
The American military said that the fighting against the Taliban
occurred Friday and Sunday in the Zerkoh Valley, near the Iranian
border about 30 miles south of the city of Herat, and that the Special
Forces called in airstrikes on at least two occasions. An American
soldier was killed in the fighting on Friday, the military said, but
there were no other reported casualties on the coalition side.
Forty-nine Taliban fighters, including two leaders of the group, were
killed in the first bombardment on Friday, and 87 militants were
killed in bombing during a second battle on Sunday that raged for 14
hours, the military said in a statement from the United States-led
coalition headquarters at the Bagram air base.
But the local residents said that civilians were killed in the
bombardment and that some drowned in the river as they fled, according
to a local member of Parliament, Maulavi Gul Ahmad. News agencies
reported that demonstrators said women and children were among the dead.
Mr. Ahmad condemned the bombing and said that the fighting angered
local residents because the Americans raided their houses at night.
"They should not do that," he said in a telephone interview. "The
number that they claim that 130 Taliban were killed is totally
wrong. There are no Taliban there."
Raiding houses touches a nerve in Afghanistan, especially in
conservative tribal areas, because the local custom dictates that men
who are not family members cannot enter the parts of homes where the
women stay. Such raids were upsetting local sensibilities so much
several years ago that the American forces made an agreement with the
Afghan government that they would not raid houses without the presence
of Afghan elders or the police. The Afghan Independent Human Rights
Commission says that the agreement is still in effect, but that
American troops do not always adhere to it.
But an Afghan military official, who asked not to be identified,
presented a different version of events from that of Mr. Ahmad. He
said that the Special Forces had run into trouble on Friday, when they
were surrounded by insurgents, and that they requested support from
the Afghan National Army.
Afghan Army and police officials denied any involvement in the fighting.
The province of Herat, where the fighting occurred, is usually quiet,
but the Zerkoh Valley is populated by ethnic Pashtuns and shares a
border with provinces where there are many insurgents.
A Vow to Cooperate
ANKARA, Turkey, April 30 (Reuters) The president of Pakistan, Gen.
Pervez Musharraf, and President Hamid Karzai of Afghanistan vowed
Monday to work together to fight terrorism and improve bilateral ties
after a war of words over the Taliban insurgency.
For the past year, the United States has pressed Mr. Karzai and
General Musharraf to cooperate, but relations have remained strained.
In a joint statement after talks held in Turkey, the leaders said they
agreed to deny sanctuary, training and financing to terrorists. In an
interview with NTV of Turkey, General Musharraf said no details had
been discussed yet.
Afghanistan has said the Taliban are being run from Pakistan, which
Islamabad denies. Pakistan maintains that the roots of the insurgency
lie in Afghanistan and in problems with Mr. Karzai's government.
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