Brazen Taliban Attacks Raise Afghan Fears

The Associated Press
Friday, May 19, 2006; 8:57 AM

KABUL, Afghanistan -- A brazen attack by hundreds of Taliban militants on an isolated town had been building for days, a coalition spokesman said Friday, after a wave of violence in southern Afghanistan left around 100 dead.

The attack Wednesday night on Musa Qala in the volatile southern province of Helmand sparked eight hours of fighting and left about 40 Taliban and 13 Afghan police dead.

It was the epicenter of some of the fiercest combat since the Taliban regime's ouster by U.S.-led forces in late 2001 and raised new fears about deteriorating security in the hardline militia's former southern heartland.

In all, more than 100 people were reported killed in a string of attacks and engagements across Afghanistan that started Wednesday and continued through Thursday: up to 87 insurgents, at least 15 Afghan police, an American civilian training Afghan forces, and the first female Canadian soldier to die in combat.

NATO Secretary-General Jaap de Hoop Scheffer said the mission in Afghanistan will not be deterred by a recent surge in violence there, and opponents of nation-building will be defeated, the head of the alliance said Friday.

"NATO will stay the course and the spoilers will not have a chance," the alliance's chief said during a visit to Lisbon. "The operational plan is robust and the rules of engagement are robust."

Thousands of NATO troops, including forces from Canada, Britain and the Netherlands, will be stationed in areas where attacks have occurred.

"We will go in very robustly on the basis of robust rules of engagement," de Hoop Scheffer said.

"We will not accept that the spoilers _ the Taliban, the al-Qaida _ will be able to spoil this process of Afghanistan in its democratic development."

There were no reports of further violence Friday.

Coalition forces had reports from Musa Qala on Tuesday that the Taliban or criminal elements were trying to infiltrate the village.

"Then the whole thing blew up" on Wednesday and Thursday, said Maj. Quentin Innis, a coalition spokesman based in Kandahar.

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© 2006 The Associated Press