50 Taliban Insurgents Killed in Fight After Ambush, Afghans Say

By Rahim Faiez
Associated Press
Monday, September 14, 2009

KABUL, Sept. 13 -- About 50 Taliban militants died in a battle in western Afghanistan after an insurgent ambush killed three U.S. troops and seven Afghan soldiers, an Afghan official said Sunday.

The fighting took place in a region controlled by militants that has been the site of huge battles, some that have caused high numbers of civilian casualties. In Saturday's clash, a rocket fired by a militant struck a home and killed a woman and a teenage girl, Afghan police said.

The battle followed an insurgent ambush that killed three Americans and seven Afghan troops, said Maj. Abdul Basir Ghori, an Afghan army spokesman. The ambush involved two roadside bombs, gunfire and rocket-propelled grenades, the U.S. military said Sunday.

Fighting that included NATO airstrikes continued for six to eight hours after the ambush, said Capt. Elizabeth Mathias, a U.S. military spokeswoman.

Saturday's violence came the same day Afghan officials said 50 civilians, security forces and militants were killed in a spate of other attacks across Afghanistan, including 20 noncombatants killed in two roadside bomb explosions.

Violence has risen steadily in Afghanistan in the past three years, and militants now control wide swaths of the countryside.

The United States and NATO have a record number of troops in the country, and the top commander in Afghanistan, U.S. Gen. Stanley A. McChrystal, is expected to soon request thousands more. A record number of U.S. and NATO troops have died in Afghanistan already this year.

Also Sunday, an International Security Assistance Force official provided more information about the rescue of a New York Times reporter from Taliban captors in Kunduz province this month. Afghan journalists were angered that the British-Irish reporter was rescued while his Afghan interpreter died during the operation and was left behind.

The ISAF official said the operation was launched because there were signs that the Taliban kidnappers planned to move the two men and hand them over to higher-level insurgents.

British troops came under heavy fire as soon as their helicopters landed, said the official, who spoke on the condition of anonymity to provide details of the operation that had not been made public.

The rescuing troops brought body armor for Times reporter Stephen Farrell and for Afghan interpreter Sultan Munadi, the official said. When the British forces found Farrell, they immediately asked him where Munadi was, but Farrell said he had been killed. Because the militants' gunfire was so heavy, the troops had to leave Munadi's body behind, the official said.

The British troops killed about a dozen militants during the operation, the official said.

"People need to understand that it's not like we walked in and tried to save this one guy and leave the other behind," the official said. "It was really heavy fire, and the risk wouldn't have been justified to recover a person they knew was already dead."

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