By Amir Shah
Friday, September 1, 2006
KABUL, Afghanistan, Aug. 31 -- Taliban insurgents attacked a southern town Thursday, sparking intense fighting with government troops that left two guerrillas dead, the Defense Ministry said.
A NATO airstrike pushed back the insurgents, who used mortars, rocket-propelled grenades and heavy machine guns in the attack on Naw Zad, in Helmand province, said a ministry spokesman, Gen. Zahir Azimi.
Before dawn Thursday, two rockets slammed into central Kabul, the capital. One landed in an upscale residential neighborhood, about 10 yards from the army chief of staff's house; the other landed in a park. There were no immediate reports of damage or injuries, witnesses and NATO said.
Kabul has been spared most of the violence that has racked the south and east of the country, but occasional rocket attacks and roadside bombs have rattled it.
A Dutch F-16 fighter jet crashed in Ghazni province in central Afghanistan, killing the pilot, military officials said. Hostile fire was ruled out because the plane was flying too high to have been shot down. The 29-year-old pilot, the only person on board, was found dead at the crash site.
The Netherlands is a key contributor to a multinational force in charge of security operations in volatile southern Afghanistan.
In Zabol province, a suicide attacker plowed an explosives-filled car into a police convoy traveling on the main road, wounding three officers, said Jailan Khan, the provincial police chief.
A purported Taliban regional commander, Mullah Nazir, asserted responsibility for the blast and said the bomber was an Afghan man from Khost province. His assertion could not be independently verified.
NATO aircraft dropped six bombs on two Taliban positions in Helmand's Musa Qala district on Wednesday, but there were no reports of insurgent casualties, said Maj. Quentin Innis, a spokesman for the NATO-led force.
Helmand, particularly its three northern districts including Naw Zad, has been the site of some of the heaviest and most persistent fighting during this year's surge in violence in Afghanistan, the worst since the Taliban was driven from power by U.S.-led forces in late 2001.
In the east, gunmen shot and killed a doctor as he left his home in the Zurmat district of Paktia province, said Matiullah Rahmani, the provincial deputy police chief. He blamed Taliban insurgents.
Also in Paktia, fighters raided a police post in the Ahmad Khel district before dawn, wounding one policeman. Rahmani said the attackers left a trail of blood, suggesting they had suffered one or two dead or wounded.