Taliban's second attempt to capture Afghan town leaves 24 dead
Six Afghan police and 18 militants were killed when Taliban fighters attacked several police posts in a second attempt in three days to capture a provincial capital in southern Afghanistan, police said Wednesday.
Taliban militants attacked a police post on the outskirts of Lashkargah, the capital of Helmand province, on Tuesday night, killing six policemen, provincial police chief Assadullah Shirzad said.
Taliban spokesman Qari Mohammad Yousif Ahmadi, talking about the same firefight, said Taliban fighters killed 12 police and soldiers in their attacks on three security posts. Ahmadi spoke by phone from an undisclosed location, reported dpa.
In another incident, Shirzad said, police had intelligence information that Taliban fighters had gathered near the provincial capital to attack several police posts.
In a pre-emptive police action, 18 Taliban militants, including two commanders, were killed Tuesday night in the Anar Bagh area of Lashkargah city.
"Mullah Saboor and Mullah Gul, two Taliban commanders, were among 18 militants killed in the firefight," Shirzad said.
He said seven Taliban and three police officers were wounded in the clash.
Taliban militants are well-entrenched in Helmand, where more than 8,000 British troops are stationed. The British soldiers are part of around 50,000 NATO-commanded troops deployed to the country from 40 nations.
The militants attacked several police posts Saturday night in an attempt to capture the provincial capital but were pushed by Afghan and NATO forces. More than 60 militants were killed in ground attacks and NATO airstrike.
Helmand, which is also the largest opium-producing province in the country, has seen numerous clashes between the Taliban and allied forces since the beginning of this year.
Provincial officials believe that hundreds of foreign fighters have poured into the province recently to back indigenous militants in their insurgency.
More than 4,000 people - mostly insurgents - have been killed in the Afghan conflict so far this year, according to figures provided by military sources and tallied by dpa.