21 militants killed in Afghan raid, clashes

US-led coalition finds rocket-propelled grenade launchers and several grenades in eastern Nangarhar province.

Afghan coalition 298.88 (photo credit: AP)
Afghan coalition 298.88
(photo credit: AP)
US-led and Afghan troops raided three compounds in eastern Afghanistan on Friday, killing four suspected militants and detaining 16 others, while clashes and airstrikes in the south left 17 more militants dead, officials said. The raid in the eastern Nangarhar province targeted compounds suspected "of harboring Taliban and foreign fighters," the US-led coalition said. "Taliban forces inside two of the compounds attempted to engage coalition forces as they approached," it said in a statement. "The forces fired on the militants, killing the assailants and quickly securing the compounds." Troops found rocket-propelled grenade launchers and several grenades, which were removed and destroyed, it said. The statement did not identify those killed or detained, and said no civilians were injured during the operation. Malek Zaman, an elder of the village where the raid took place, said the US troops used explosives to break through the house gates in an operation that killed four people - a local man, two of his sons and his grandson. Zaman denied that the four were militants, saying those killed and detained were innocent civilians who were not involved in the insurgency against Afghan and foreign troops. "People will be angry and might even react to these killings," Zaman said. Violence is soaring in Afghanistan, with over 2,400 people, mostly militants, killed in fighting this year, according to an Associated Press tally of figures from Western military and Afghan officials. But it is the killing of civilians by US and NATO-led troops that prompted President Hamid Karzai to say that lives of Afghan civilians were not "cheap." He urged restraint and better coordination of military operations with the Afghan government. While militants killed 178 civilians in attacks through June 23, Western forces killed 203, according to an AP count based on figures from Afghan and international officials. Exact counts are nearly impossible in the chaos of war. Separate figures from the UN and an umbrella organization of Afghan and international aid groups show that, through May 31, the number of civilians killed by international forces was roughly equal to those killed by insurgents. In other violence, a suicide car bomber exploded near a NATO's International Security Assistance Force convoy in Paktika province on Thursday, killing one Afghan civilian and wounding six other people, including two ISAF soldiers, a NATO statement said. Those injured were transported to a military medical facility for treatment, the statement said. In neighboring Zabul province's Mizan district, Taliban fighters ambushed a joint NATO and Afghan patrol on Thursday and in the ensuing clash two militants were killed and five others were wounded, said Mohammad Younus Akhunzada, a district chief. The Taliban left the dead bodies on the field and took the wounded with them, Akhunzada said. There were no Afghan or NATO casualties in the clash, he said. On Wednesday, a series of clashes and airstrikes in southern Afghanistan killed 15 suspected militants, the Defense Ministry said in a statement. Eight militants died in fighting in Helmand province's Gereshk district, and seven more were killed in an airstrike in Tirin Kot in Uruzgan province, the ministry said.