U.S. Troops Repel Blitz By Taliban

By Rahim Faiez
Associated Press
Thursday, March 30, 2006

KANDAHAR, Afghanistan, March 29 -- Taliban fighters on Wednesday launched a rare concerted attack on a base used by multinational forces in southern Afghanistan, killing an American soldier and a Canadian soldier and sparking fierce U.S.-led retaliation that killed 32 insurgents in the bloodiest fighting in months.

Assaults by the radical Islamic militia have grown in intensity recently, and the group has warned of a renewed offensive this year.

The most recent assault was directed at a remote forward operating base in the Sangin district of Helmand province. A small contingent of American and Canadian troops are stationed at the base with Afghan soldiers.

The violence began late Tuesday, when Taliban insurgents ambushed an Afghan convoy as it returned to the base, killing eight Afghan soldiers, said Col. Chris Vernon, a spokesman for the British military.

U.S. and British warplanes and helicopters were called in to provide air support and a Canadian quick-reaction force was sent from Kandahar to the base.

Early Wednesday, the base came under a "significant Taliban attack" that killed the Canadian and American soldiers, Vernon said. At least five coalition troops were wounded, including three Canadians and an American, officials said.

Twelve Taliban fighters died in the attack, while 20 others were killed after coalition aircraft and artillery fire forced them to flee into the desert.

The U.S. military said that coalition troops who overrran a Taliban base in Helmand found two "headquarters buildings" containing large caches of weapons, bombs and ammunition. All were blown up, the military said.

"The capturing of these two compounds with boots on the ground produced significant intelligence and allows us to continue to put pressure on the enemy," U.S. Brig. Gen. Anthony J. Tata added.

The American's death brought to 223 the number of U.S. service members killed in and around Afghanistan since the Taliban was driven from power in 2001. Twelve Canadians have been killed in the country since 2002, according to the Canadian Press news agency.

In other violence, suspected Taliban rebels attacked a police checkpoint in Kandahar late Tuesday, killing two officers and wounding four, according to a police.

Also Tuesday, a roadside bomb killed six Afghan soldiers in Helmand province. Four private security workers -- a Namibian and three Afghans -- were killed elsewhere in the south in attacks blamed on Taliban rebels.

© 2006 The Washington Post Company