Friday, January 29, 2010

Resistance Fighters Attack Afghan Cities

Friday, January 29, 2010
16:08 Mecca time, 13:08 GMT

Taliban fighters attack Afghan city

Nato said its troops and Afghan soldiers had contained the fighters in a vacant building

Afghan troops, backed by Nato helicopters, have clashed with Taliban fighters after they attacked United Nations and government buildings in Helmand province, witnesses and officials said.

The Taliban fighters launched the assault in Lashkar Gah, the provincial capital of the southern region, early on Friday.

Provincial officials said two attackers blew themselves up and one Afghan soldier had been slightly injured in the fighting.

Qari Yousef Ahmadi, a Taliban spokesman, said seven fighters, armed with suicide vests and machine guns, had been sent to carry out the attack.

He said that 20 foreign and Afghan soldiers were killed or wounded, but Nato said no casualties had been reported on the pro-government side.

Kamal Uddin, the deputy provincial police chief, said no civilian casualties had been reported.

Fighters disguised

Al Jazeera's David Chater, reporting from the capital, Kabul, said fighters had stormed various points in the city.

"Apparently they were dressed in either Afghan national army uniforms or police uniforms. Several explosions have been heard," he said.

"It appears that gunmen have taken over a hotel that was being built about 300 yards [275 metre] away from the governor's offices."

Nato said its troops and Afghan soldiers had contained the Taliban in a vacant building.

"The main group of attackers was contained in a vacant building to the south of Sharwali Barracks," an International Security Assistance Forces (Isaf) statement said.

"Attack helicopters are over the city and have fired upon insurgents."

Sporadic fighting continued as Afghan troops searched for the other fighters. Police officials said they believed five or six of them were holed up inside the building.

Taliban assaults

Daoud Ahmadi, a spokesman for the provincial government, said officials had received tips in recent days that the Taliban planned an attack on government buildings in Lashkar Gah.

The Taliban have attempted similar attacks in Kabul, most recently on January 18 when seven attackers were killed after a five-hour assault.

Five Afghan civilians and security forces also died in that fighting.

The Helmand assault comes a day after a new fund aimed at reducing the Taliban threat was announced in an international conference on the future of Afghanistan held in London.

The fund sets aside $140m for the first year of a programme to "reintegrate" moderate Taliban into the Afghan society.

The Taliban released a statement dismissing the initiative as "futile", but a UN official revealed that "active members of the insurgency" had met an envoy from the international body early this month at their request.

Source: Al Jazeera and agencies

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