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Saturday, May 29, 2004

Turkish Prime Minister Tayyip Erdogan on Saturday signalled NATO member Turkey could send more troops and take over command of the alliance's peacekeeping force in Afghanistan next year.
Malali Hospital, a jumble of one- and two-story masonry buildings on a residential Kabul street, would never be mistaken for a modern, Western institution. Despite a 2003 renovation by foreign aid agencies, the institution's wards and snaking corridors are cramped and in need of a coat of paint. But for Afghanistan, it is a state-of-the-art facility. Taxis arrive in the courtyard every few minutes. Scores of men loiter in the waiting room or under shaded porches. Inside, only women are allowed - and a handful of male hospital staff. As many as 100 children are born here a day, including the boy born recently to Najilah, a 27-year-old Kabul resident.
Warning of renewed military attacks if arm-twisting fails, Pakistani security forces detained dozens of tribesmen Saturday after tribal elders failed to register and disarm foreign militants suspected of links to the Taliban and al-Qaida. The crackdown also included the seizures of vehicles and closings of businesses. It focused on the Ahmedzai Wazir tribe in South Waziristan.
Afghanistan's new army will deploy most of its 10,000 soldiers to bolster security for September elections and will double its strength in a year under an expanded U.S. training program to help it supplant feuding private armies, an American general said Saturday. Fifteen battalions of the Afghan National Army, each numbering between 500 and 850 soldiers, will fan out across the country under a plan agreed Wednesday by the U.S. military and the Afghan Defence Ministry, Maj.-Gen. Craig Weston said.
For the rest of us it is a time for somber reflection on the 1 million Americans who have given their precious lives defending this nation - from the Bridge at Concord in 1776 to Fallujah in 2004 - and all that we who enjoy life in freedom owe them. Memorial Day is all the more poignant because we are a nation at war and the conflicts in Afghanistan and Iraq have now contributed nearly 1,000 dead to that roll of honor. Not many, you say?
Joe Galloway column.
When the truck filled with top-of-the-line televisions, stereos, DVD players and satellite dishes pulled up to Adil's shop in the Nadir Pushtoon section of Kabul earlier this year, it didn't come alone. It was closely followed by a police officer, who pointed out that the truck was parked illegally but said he would ignore the offence if he was given a bribe.
An offer of about 10 US dollars by the 28-year-old shopkeeper was rejected by the police officer as inadequate. After a brief argument, Adil and the officer marched down to the local police station, where the police chief promptly demanded a payment of 200 dollars.
"After this experience, I will give the policeman whatever he wants at the beginning, because when you complain to high-ranking officials, the bribes just get bigger," Adil said.
Bakhshish, or bribes, are part of everyday life in Afghanistan. Corruption and extortion are rife among the the police, judicial system, public utilities - even the national airline.
Posters threatening Afghans who register to vote or support the government and the United Nations have appeared in the central province of Maidan Wardak. The hand-written posters contained death threats against anyone working with or using the UN's women's centres. They also comprised unspecified threats against those supporting the government in the election process.
A Western diplomatic source said similar threatening "letters" have appeared in the neighbouring province of Logar and in the southern provinces of Kandahar, Helmand and some areas of Kabul. Reports about the letters have persisted for some time. But an IWPR reporter was the first journalist to actually find one, which was posted on a wall in Chak, a district in Maidan Wardak, last week.
Four U.S. service members were killed in action in southern Afghanistan on Saturday, the U.S. military said in a brief statement. The deaths occurred in the southern province of Zabul, which has seen regular attacks by Islamic militants including remnants of the ousted Taliban and the al Qaeda network.
"Four U.S. service members assigned to the Combined Joint Special Operations Task Force - Afghanistan were killed in action today in southern Afghanistan," the statement, received early on Sunday, said.
"Names will not be released until notification of next of kin is complete."
(Reuters)

At a news conference on Saturday, the U.S. Army stated that the death of former Arizona Cardinals safety Pat Tillman in Afghanistan was probably due to friendly fire.
Taliban and al-Qaida prisoners recently transferred to a large prison outside Kabul described how they endured more than two years of torture and witnessed hundreds of deaths at the hands of forces led by warlord Abdul Rashid Dostum. Prisoners interviewed in crowded, Spartan cells at the sprawling prison on the eastern edge of the Afghan capital spoke of how U.S. forces turned them over to Dostum, a Soviet-trained Afghan general with a reputation for brutality, and how Dostum's commanders suffocated hundreds packed in shipping containers.
With the United States fighting protracted wars in both Iraq and Afghanistan, its military faces a shortage of a basic necessity: ammunition.
Two American soldiers have been wounded in skirmishes with suspected Islamic militants close to the Pakistani border, the U.S. military said on Saturday. The clash on Thursday evening near Shkin, about 140 miles south of Kabul in the province of Paktika, also involved warplanes called in to support U.S.-led forces in the area.
Even some Pashtun figures who said they would support Karzai's candidacy expressed disappointment in his leadership, saying he has been unwilling to stand up to regional bosses despite enjoying strong international support -- and is now snubbing his tribal constituents while courting perennial adversaries.
"People were lukewarm before, but now that has turned to bitterness," said one Pashtun tribal leader. "Without the Pashtun vote, Karzai is nothing. We are his natural allies and supporters, but he is ignoring us. It is a huge mistake for him to make deals with people like Rabbani unless he has fortified himself and made sure we are there guarding his back."
Some international observers here expressed broader worries, saying the president's deal-making suggests that despite his worldly demeanor and constant invocation of democratic ideals, he is more comfortable with backroom power-brokering and more concerned about winning election than about bolstering the democratic process.
"Are we here to get one man elected or to help establish a democratic process?" asked one Western election consultant. "Why is Karzai making deals with extremists instead of moderates? His world has always been about making deals among tribes and militias. This election is a new process for Afghanistan. The people seem enthusiastic, but maybe the president isn't ready for it."
Pamela Constable reports.
China claims terrorists from its region are hiding in Pakisatn.
Afghan police arrested a man suspected of trying to recruit university students to carry out suicide attacks on international peacekeepers for the Taliban, officials said Saturday.
A remote-controlled bomb planted by suspected Taliban resurgents seriously injured five government soldiers in the southern Afghan province of Kandahar, officials said today. The attack happened in the Shah Wali-Kot district, 65 km north of Kandahar city, when a convoy of five vehicles were travelling from the neighbouring province of Uruzgan yesterday, a police officer in Kandahar said.
Many complaints against US soldiers in Afghanistan remain unspoken, with illiterate and isolated citizens unwilling or unable to lodge their protests, according to the country’s main rights organization.
"Though the constitution provides for the freedom of non-Muslim groups to exercise their various faiths, it does not contain explicit protections" for the right to religious freedom "... that would extend to every individual," it said.
In addition, the commission pointed out, Afghanistan has two more constitutional problems that pose risks to religious freedom--a "repugnancy clause" that bars any laws "contrary to the beliefs and practices of Islam" and provisions for the country's judicial system that have been interpreted to allow it to enforce Islamic law in some cases.
The report noted the country's chief justice has told commissioners he rejects the concepts of equality of the sexes and freedom of expression and religion.
The Army recognized its top journalists for 2003 in a Pentagon ceremony May 27.
Using a mobile antenna positioned on a hill overlooking the capital, the broadcast range of "Afghan TV" station only covers Kabul city, but its owner, Ahmad Shah Afghanzai, hopes to widen its range across the country in a year's time.
In Afghanistan, meanwhile, Islamabad is adopting a similar approach by actively supporting the political arm of the Hezb-i-Islami Afghanistan (HIA) as a part of the political mainstream to contest presidential and parliamentary elections scheduled for September. Already, a Peshawar-based HIA team has met with Afghan President Hamid Karzai and his cabinet ministers with a view to cementing their legitimacy.
The military wing of the HIA, led by Gulbuddin Hekmatyar, is still actively involved in the resistance movement against the thousands of foreign troops in the country, both US and those in the International Security Assistance Force, comprising mostly troops from NATO.
Afghan security agents and international peacekeepers have arrested 36 suspected Taliban militants on the outskirts of Kabul. International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) spokesman Chris Henderson said that the suspects include one man who was an explosives dealer. Henderson said Kabul city police also arrested a man on 27 May in connection with threats against the NATO-led peacekeeping force. He said the man had been based at Kabul University and was "apparently encouraging students to conduct suicide attacks against ISAF."
(AFP)
A delegation from NATO's Parliamentary Assembly has returned from a visit to Afghanistan with the warning that Western sponsors of democracy must act fast or risk losing their investment. Pierre Lellouche, a French deputy who headed the delegation, told RFE/RL that there still is no security outside Kabul. He warned that without an additional 3,000 to 4,000 Western troops, elections planned for September will be decided by Afghanistan's regional warlords and factional commanders.
Afghanistan's new election law was signed on 27 May by Afghan Transitional Administration Chairman Hamid Karzai, paving the way for the country's elections due in September. So far some 2.6 million citizens have registered to vote in the elections from an estimated eligible population of nearly 10 million.
ABC News’ “Nightline” will follow its tribute to U.S. troops killed in Iraq with a similar reading tonight of the names of 122 service people killed in the war on terror, mostly in Afghanistan.
You know the old saying: No news is good news. But in the news business, it is just the opposite: Good news is no news – which is why you have been hearing so little from Afghanistan recently...
You can travel around, as CBS News has, and see the results of foreign aid projects in the countryside. There are big projects, like a highway construction program that began with the Kabul to Kandahar road, which was completed in record time. And there are countless smaller projects that make real improvements in the lives of the people.
Aid to Afghanistan is not costing a lot: 67 dollars a year for each man, woman and child. Kosovo got more than ten times that as it recovered from war. Even Haiti got more. But a little bit of aid goes a long way in this country.
A landmine planted by suspected Taleban fighters to target US and Afghan troops killed three children and wounded another in Afghanistan’s troubled southern province of Kandahar, a news report said on Friday. The landmine went off Thursday evening on the main road in the Shor Andam area, which is primarily used by US-led coalition and Afghan forces to gain access to the aiport in Kandahar city, the Pakistan-based Afghan Islamic Press (AIP) said.
“It is a source of frustration for the Afghans, for us and, I’m sure, for ISAF itself,” said spokesman Manoel de Almeida e Silva.
NATO approved the expansion of the force’s operating area beyond the capital in October, with the hope that peacekeepers could establish civil-military reconstruction teams. But the alliance, which wants to launch at least five teams in the north and west, has found it difficult to find soldiers.
When I left Bagram airfield, I saw the same special trucks of Ecology contractors I noticed in Konduz and Kabul. This company must make millions of dollars providing mobile toilet cleaning support.
Three helicopters and 56 flight and maintenance personnel were charged to serve International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) in Afghanistan, Turkish General Staff said.
Announcing a new aid package for Afghanistan, the European Union executive on Thursday accused US-led troops in the country of endangering the lives of aid workers by dressing in civilian clothes and using the same vehicles as them.
Without hesitation, Nasir led his team down the steep ridgeline in pursuit of the enemy. "At the bottom of the slope, Lieutenant Nasir was confronted by a smaller group of Taliban armed with AK-47s and an RPG 7," Hansen said. "Nasir shot one of them, and the others started running up the next hill." Nasir charged after them, shouting encouragement to his men, heedless of the enemy fire around him, and his men followed.
Lance Cpl. Michael Mason has a dirty, exhausting job. Carrying a rifle in one hand and an entrenching tool in the other, he trudges up and down the steep, rocky hills of south-central Afghanistan digging holes and climbing through holes and doorways far too small for his six-foot two-inch frame. As a combat engineer whose squad is assigned to Alpha Company, Battalion Landing Team 1st Bn., 6th Marines, Mason has the dubious honor of being first to enter the scores of houses, barns, wells, and miscellaneous compounds littering his unit's assigned search area.
Despite risk Afghanistan is back on hippie trail
By Hamida Ghafour in Kabul
The Telegraph UK

The Taliban are attacking American soldiers, half the country is off limits to aid workers and the other half is ruled by warlords. But to a rising number of adventure-seekers, Afghanistan is again a trendy place to travel. A new generation of hippies, including Britons, are crossing the borders from Iran, Uzbekistan and Pakistan, hitch-hiking on lorries carrying emergency supplies to the cities and staying with local families along the way.
Belinda Bowling, a South African who braved public buses and local taxi drivers to travel from the province of Herat, near the Iranian border, to Kabul, admitted that the country wasn't for the novice traveller.
"It's not the place for gap-year youngsters," she said. "But I have never encountered such warmth in all my travels. The family we met in Herat looked after us for the entire time by passing us on to their cousins. I also stayed in teahouses."
While images of Pathans riding on horseback across mountains appeal to the romantic, the risks are high. Earlier this month two backpackers - a Swiss and a Norwegian - were stoned to death in south Kabul. It is believed that they were staying with a family in the neighbourhood, where members of the Hizb-e-Islami terrorist group live. It is not clear why they were killed.
The Foreign Office advises against all travel to Afghanistan unless essential.
Nick Downie, project manager of Anso, an organisation that provides security advice to the aid community, said: "It's high risk. Sure, it's a great adventure but there are bandits everywhere."
On arrival in Kabul, most stay at the Mustafa Hotel run by Wais Faizi, an eccentric Afghan-American who keeps 54 white doves as pets and charges £6 a night.
"Anyone in his right mind wouldn't come here," he said. "Most people are here to work, not have fun."

Wednesday, May 26, 2004

The rapid proliferation of digital cameras, phonecams and wireless gadgets among soldiers and military contractors is giving senior military officials concern, in the wake of images that showed abuse in an Iraqi prison and snapshots that showed rows of coffins of American soldiers.
The Defense Department said it hasn't banned the devices and doesn't plan to -- as the Business Times of London and two wire services have reported. But the Pentagon is telling commanders in the field to strictly monitor the use of consumer wireless technology through Directive 8100.2 -- Use of Commercial Wireless Devices, Services and Technologies in the Department of Defense Global Information Grid -- issued last month.
Afghanistan has agreed in principle to release the last batch of over 400 Pakistani prisoners being held in Kabul's notorious Pul-i-Churkhi prison. Pakistan's ambassador in Kabul, Rustam Shah Mohmand told Dawn on phone from the Afghan capital that the release of these prisoners could take place in the next few days....
Their release would complete the full repatriation of all those who had gone to Afghanistan to fight on the side of the Taliban against the US-led Northern Alliance forces.
A Hollywood actor who starred in horror film Dawn Of The Dead has found he is prince of the Afghan province of Ghor. Scott Reiniger, who appeared in the 1978 movie, is the great, great, great grandson of Josiah Harlan, the first American to set foot in Afghanistan. As a result of a treaty Harlan signed, his heirs are granted the title Prince of Ghor in perpetuity.
Afghanistan's national flag carrier resumed flights to the French capital after more than a decade's hiatus Wednesday, making it the airline's second European destination, an official said.
Canadian engineers were about to begin securing a gunnery range for artillerymen Wednesday when two Afghan civilians were badly wounded by a landmine on the same range less than a kilometre away.
A police guard was killed and at least 32 other people injured when two car bombs exploded near US buildings in the southern Pakistani port city of Karachi.
"During the operation 20 Taliban were killed, two of them were senior commanders," Laghmanai told AFP. He named the two Taliban commanders as Qari Faizullah and Qari Ali Mohammed. "The operation is still on going with government troops chasing down Taliban to the Pakistani border. According to our intelligence we estimated that 200 Taliban were in the area and now they have scattered."...Kandahar intelligence chief Abdullah Laghmanai said Wednesday.
Troops mostly consume Meals, Ready-to-Eat, fruit that's shipped in and some of the local flat bread. When they come back from patrols or other missions, troops can wash down briefly with an occasional trip to their field shower unit. "We're living in a bare bones environment," Col. McKenzie said. "Everyone is sleeping in a bubble tent on the ground."
Camp Ripley is about 4300 feet above sea level and Marines from the 22nd MEU have been in the mountains up to 7300 feet.
U.S.-led forces backed by aircraft scattered suspected Islamic militants with precision-guided bombs during a sustained battle in southern Afghanistan, where Taliban and al Qaeda activity has been growing.
Afghan officials said 28 Taliban were killed in the Tuesday night air strikes, but a spokesman for the government in the southern city of Kandahar said Wednesday eight guerrillas had died and three Afghan soldiers were wounded.
Even so, the losses would be among the worst suffered by the militia in a single battle in 12 months. Taliban spokesman Haji Latif Hakimi said six Taliban and 20 government soldiers died.
LTC Mansager also said a U.S. patrol was attacked Monday in Deh Rawood, the capital of Uruzgan province, 250 miles southwest of Kabul, where Marines are based, but no casualties were reported. U.S. forces detained three suspects. Separately, a bomb or old mine exploded near a United Nations vehicle as it crossed a bridge in Taloqan, northern Afghanistan, on Wednesday, officials said. No one was injured.
Besides their more traditional role of providing installation security, airmen here assigned to the 455th Expeditionary Security Forces Squadron have taken on two other important combat-related responsibilities in support of the global war on terrorism. Security forces airmen are providing security for convoy operations that maneuver over the rugged, and potentially hostile, Afghanistan landscape outside Bagram Air Base.
I don't need permission to film Afghans outside the base. They do some joint patrols with the Americans but there are plenty of Afghans doing their own patrols and vehicle checkpoints. The Afghans and Americans have separate dorms on the base. I've asked for a liaison officer on the base to make sure we don't film any Americans on the base. There are a lot of other crews from the US at the moment so they are busy.
Donor countries are showing more generosity toward Afghanistan lately, but the international largesse may prove meaningless unless the country's continued violence can be controlled. American officials are pleased with the upward trend in assistance promises, while privately criticizing Arab countries for reneging on Afghan aid pledges they made more than two years ago.
The US commander of the US-led wars in Iraq and Afghanistan has received an honorary knighthood. Former US General Tommy Franks, who planned and headed up the operations, was given the honour in a private ceremony.

Tuesday, May 25, 2004

Far from being crippled by the U.S.-led war on terror, al-Qaida has more than 18,000 potential terrorists scattered around the world and the war in Iraq is swelling its ranks, a report said Tuesday.
Al-Qaida is probably working on plans for major attacks on the United States and Europe, and it may be seeking weapons of mass destruction in its desire to inflict as many casualties as possible, the International Institute of Strategic Studies said in its annual survey of world affairs. Osama bin Laden's network appears to be operating in more than 60 nations, often in concert with local allies, the study by the independent think tank said.
Top Afghan commanders arrived in Kabul Tuesday to discuss the government's proposal for their disarmament. Reports from Kabul said four key commanders who maintain large private armies are also attending the talks. They include the governors of Herat and Balkh, two provinces that border Iran and Central Asia.
The issue of prisoner maltreatment arouses strong feelings in the Afghan press. excerpts.
The University of California, Davis, and a Bay Area nonprofit organization won a federal contract to rebuild agriculture in areas of Afghanistan once dotted with land mines, the university announced this week. The U.S. Agency for International Development is spending $10 million on the project, meant to restore grape and raisin vineyards in the war-torn country.
In the remote Hindu Kush mountains, some 250 Afghan children – around half of them girls – sit in newly constructed classrooms funded by a Swiss couple.
Afghanistan’s defence ministry has dispatched a team to prevent an outbreak of fighting between police and a factional commander reluctant to surrender arms under a national disarmament plan, a spokesman said yesterday. Tension has been building in the past week in the central province of Ghor between supporters of Abdul Salaam, a powerful local commander, and Aman Khan, provincial police chief appointed by the central government, ministry spokesman Zahir Azimy said.
As Afghan National Army soldiers pass through this northern city recently beset by tensions between rival warlords, a small schoolgirl throws a flower over the convoy while others wave as a sign of respect. For more than a decade, Afghanistan had no national army and the residents of provincial areas like Meymanah, in the northern province of Faryab, welcome the green-beret troops as a sign of the growing authority of the military arm of the Kabul government in areas long ruled by militia commanders.
Pat Tillman, the former professional football player who walked away from a $3.6 million contract to become a U.S. Army Ranger, was last seen by his men crouched on a hill near the Pakistan border. He was slowly moving forward, firing a lightweight machine gun at militants who had attacked part of his patrol.
The following is a Voice of America editorial reflecting the views of the United States government regarding Afghanistan.
Prime Minister Tony Blair insisted today he had not “forgotten” Afghanistan.
A pro-Taliban politician was named leader of the Pakistani opposition on Tuesday, a move secular opposition groups said would strengthen Islamic extremism.
American warplanes helped Afghan forces pound Taliban militants in the mountains of southern Afghanistan Tuesday, killing some 20 suspected insurgents at a newly discovered camp, a senior Afghan commander said....
Elsewhere, officials in the embattled south and east said Taliban militants riding motorcycles killed an Afghan soldier in an attack on troops guarding a shipment of aid, while a rocket attack further west killed two people.


Monday, May 24, 2004

Authorities are holding two men and looking for two others in connection with a rocket attack in Afghanistan that killed a Norwegian peacekeeper and wounded another. A man claiming to speak for the Taliban tells The Associated Press in Kabul that nine of its fighters carried out yesterday's attack.
(Associated Press)

What strikes the reader of newspaper archives between, say, 1993 and 2001 is the sheer overwhelming insouciance among Americans about Islamic theocracy and terrorism—and the infuriating magnanimity with which the representatives of theocracy and terrorism were received in public as they offered apologetics for their policies and practices. It must seem surreal to us now, but the fact is that “the Taliban’s man in the U.S.” was greeted with open arms almost everywhere he went between his arrival here in January 1997 and his hasty departure a few days before the beginning of the war on Afghanistan in October 2001.
Army to deploy peel-and-stick armor in Afghanistan.
"'Choop sha', no talking," American servicewoman Angela Bousquet firmly tells the Afghan women and children sitting at her feet.
Separated from the men of their village in insurgency-hit Uruzgan provinces, the group is being dealt with by the US military's latest improvement in its search for Taliban and Al-Qaeda fighters in Afghanistan -- 12 females in the infantry of the Marines.
Before teeing off, mind the bombed out barracks to your left. Don't aim for the fairway; there isn't one. The greens are actually black; a mixture of sand and oil. The clubhouse is collapsing and has no walls. Welcome to Kabul Golf Club.
About 130 U.S. troops have crossed from Afghanistan into Pakistan looking for Taliban or al Qaeda fighters, Pakistani intelligence sources and local authorities said Sunday, in what is believed to be the fifth such operation in two weeks. The Americans crossed into the Pakistani tribal territory of North Waziristan on Saturday after exchanging "hard words" with Pakistani border scouts, intelligence sources said.
Still, the weather-beaten fighters seemed skeptical and a bit sad as they caressed their heavy weapons before reluctantly lugging them into a wire cage, where U.N. and Afghan army officials received them for storage. "This was my father's rocket launcher in the jihad against the Russians, and now it is mine. I know we have peace and freedom, so I will give it up," said Syed Rahman, 24, who plans to become a truck driver. "The government has promised us many things, but if they don't follow through, we can always take our guns back and begin the fight again."
Pamela Constable reports.
Golf Battery may be doing they're job almost too well. Keeping the Marines focused on looking out for an enemy who may be smart enough not to attack the FOB directly is a challenge.
"It's kind of hard keeping the guys motivated," said Delgado. Delgado helps keep his Marines sharp by walking the line of fighting holes and talking about the plans his Marines have when they return home.
"When you explain to them what they're doing, it makes them feel better," he said. "It gives them an understanding of the big picture."
The first private television channel in the Afghan capital of Kabul has begun airing programs. The channel, entitled Afghan Television Channel, was established with 200,000 US dollars.
Brigadier General Charles Jacoby is to visit each of the about 20 American detention centers, including the main jail at Bagram and others at smaller bases around the country "to ensure internationally accepted standards of handling detainees are being met," according to the military, which insists all its prisoners are treated humanely.
Picture Story: Marines Charlie Company, BLT 1/6 in Afghanistan.
British troops are helping at the scene of a rocket attack in the Afghan capital tonight which injured three Norwegian peacekeepers.
The Ministry of Defence said three rocket-propelled grenades hit a Norwegian vehicle carrying peacekeepers along the Jalalabad Road in Kabul shortly before 2100 (1630 GMT). No British soldiers were injured in the attack.
British troops sealed off the road, preventing reporters from visiting the site of the incident, where a helicopter could be heard circling overhead. Senior Afghan police officials brushed past reporters to inspect the scene.
Officials from the US military, which has its headquarters in Kabul and a base on the Jalalabad Road, had no immediate information.
(The Scotsman UK)

Police in Afghanistan are investigating a rocket attack that killed a Norwegian peacekeeper late Sunday outside Kabul.
United States forces in Afghanistan are denying they entered Pakistani territory last week, saying they have not breached the border since an accidental incursion on May 2.
Three guerrillas from Afghanistan's ousted Taliban militia were killed on Monday in clashes with government forces in the southern province of Helmand, a local official said. Haji Mohammad Wali, spokesman for the governor of Helmand, said Afghan forces chased the guerrillas into hills around Yakchal, close to the border with Kandahar province, after the militants had ambushed government troops on Sunday.
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