18 militants killed in south Afghan battles

10 Afghans die in two other explosions around the country; 200 people demonstrate in support of outspoken female lawmaker.

Afghan US troops 298.88 (photo credit: AP)
Afghan US troops 298.88
(photo credit: AP)
Two operations in southern Afghanistan killed 18 suspected militants, including seven "foreigners," while 10 Afghans died in two other explosions around the country, officials said. The battles in Helmand province on Wednesday involved foreign troops and Afghan forces. A fight in Garmsir district killed 13 suspected militants, including the seven foreigners, the Interior Ministry said Thursday. The ministry did not give their nationalities, although Pakistanis fighting with the Taliban, as well as Chechens and Arabs associated with al-Qaida, periodically crop up among casualties in Afghanistan. Five more militants died in a joint operation in Helmand's Sangin district, the ministry said. In the eastern province of Paktika, a local government leader, four policemen and a driver were killed when ammunition they were going to confiscate exploded, said provincial spokesman Ghamia Khan. It was not immediately clear if the explosion was an accident or if the cache had been rigged, Khan said. An investigation was under way. In southern Afghanistan, four police were killed and two injured when a roadside bomb exploded next to their truck, said Naiz Mohammad Serhadi, the chief official of Kandahar province's Panjwayi district. Violence in Afghanistan has spiked in recent weeks. More than 1,800 people have died this year in insurgency-related violence, according to an Associated Press count based on US, NATO and Afghan officials. Meanwhile, 200 people demonstrated in the province of Farah in support of an outspoken female lawmaker, who was suspended by Afghanistan's parliament this week over comments she made comparing parliamentarians to animals. Malalai Joya, 29, told the AP Thursday that she has been suspended until the end of the parliamentary session in 2010, but that she was waiting for the Supreme Court to decide if her suspension was valid. Lawmakers said Joya violated a parliamentary rule barring them from criticizing one another. Joya has repeatedly referred to lawmakers as criminals, warlords and drug lords. Many who commanded forces involved in factional fighting in the 1980s and 1990s now hold parliamentary or government positions. Human Rights Watch on Wednesday said the legislature "should immediately reinstate" Joya, calling her a defender of human rights and a powerful voice for Afghan women. "The article banning criticism of Parliament is an unreasonable rule that violates the principle of free speech enshrined in international law and valued around the world," said Brad Adams, Asia director at Human Rights Watch.