60 killed in Afghan boat sinking

Another 34 suspected Taliban killed in last two days in several gunbattles in the southern province's Kajaki district.

war-torn afghanistan 298 (photo credit: AP)
war-torn afghanistan 298
(photo credit: AP)
A boat sank while crossing a river in Afghanistan's most dangerous province, leaving an estimated 60 people dead, including Taliban militants, officials said. Another 34 suspected Taliban were killed during an operation in the same southern region. The boat sank while crossing the Helmand River, which snakes through Helmand province, the world's leading opium poppy region and site of fierce battles the last several months. Hundreds of Taliban insurgents are believed to be in Helmand. The Afghan army was investigating to see how many Taliban insurgents and how many civilians were on board, the ministry said Saturday. The brief statement did not say what caused the boat to sink. The Defense Ministry spokesman, Gen. Zahir Azimi, said Afghan troops saw the boat sink from an Afghan military helicopter, suggesting that those on the boat may have been involved in a battle. Azimi also said he did not know how many on the boat may have been Taliban fighters. Meanwhile, 34 suspected Taliban were killed in the last two days in several gunbattles in the southern province's Kajaki district, near where a US helicopter went down on Thursday, killing five Americans, a Canadian and a Briton. The Interior Ministry statement said four Taliban group commanders were among the 34 killed; it did not say how it counted 34 dead or if the bodies had been left behind. The Defense Ministry said two Afghan soldiers were killed and two wounded in the operations. Elsewhere, suspected Taliban militants attacked a local police commander's home early Saturday, killing five of his family members and sparking a gunbattle with police that left 10 insurgents dead, an official said. The attack in the southeastern province of Ghazni killed the commander's wife, two sons and two nephews, said Interior Ministry spokesman Zemeri Bashary. The commander worked for Afghanistan's auxiliary police, a system of backup officers who supplement the country's regular police force. Other auxiliary police called to the scene battled the insurgents, killing 10 of them, Bashary said. The attack came one day after Taliban fighters targeted the home of a police official in the eastern province of Paktia. That assault led to a gunfight that left six insurgents dead. Taliban militants often target police and government officials. More than 1,900 people have been killed in insurgency-related violence in Afghanistan this year, according to an Associated Press count based on US, NATO and Afghan officials.