Friday, March 25, 2005
U.S. warplanes killed five suspected militants near the Pakistani border after guerrillas launched an overnight attack on American and Afghan military positions, officials said Wednesday. The planes were scrambled after insurgents fired at least eight rockets at a U.S. base in the southeastern province of Khost and turned rockets and guns against three border posts late Tuesday, the American military said. "Coalition aircraft killed five insurgents," a military statement said, adding that U.S. troops also responded with artillery fire from their base near Khost city. No U.S. or allied forces were hurt, it said. Mohammed Nawab, a senior Afghan commander in Khost, told The Associated Press that U.S. helicopters had ferried ammunition to forces defending the border posts. Nawab blamed Taliban or al-Qaida militants for the attacks and said they had come from the Pakistani side of the border. "They also retreated in that direction," Nawab said by telephone from Khost. Nawab said his troops discovered four bodies and abandoned weapons on Wednesday morning, though Gov. Nerajuddin Pathan said five bodies were recovered, apparently the same casualties counted by the U.S. military. In another incident, a roadside bomb damaged a U.S. Humvee near the southern city of Kandahar on Tuesday, U.S. spokeswoman Lt. Cindy Moore said. No soldiers were reported hurt. Taliban-led rebels have maintained a stubborn insurgency along the mountainous border despite the presence of some 17,000 American troops more than three years after the former ruling militia was ousted for harboring al-Qaida leader Osama bin Laden. U.S. commanders insist the insurgents are a waning force, though purported Taliban leaders have threatened a fresh offensive as warmer weather melts snow blocking high passes along the Pakistani border. A bomb killed five Afghan civilians in Kandahar last Thursday, as Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice visited the capital, Kabul. Passing U.N. vehicles were damaged in that explosion and a mine blast just outside Kandahar that morning, raising the prospect that the world body was the intended target.