Seven killed in Afghanistan fighting
U.S.-led forces trying to capture a suspected Taliban militant got into a firefight that left seven people dead, including two children and a woman, the military said Thursday.
The suspected militant, Raz Mohammed, and two other insurgents were also killed in the firefight Tuesday in southeastern Paktika province near the Pakistani border, the military said.
"Coalition troops were fired on by Raz Mohammed and other Taliban forces when they attempted to capture Mohammed," the military said in a statement. "During the ensuing firefight, Mohammed and two other enemy insurgents were killed. An Afghan woman and two children also died."
Mullah Hakim Latifi, a purported Taliban spokesman, said the clash occurred when U.S. troops surrounded the tents where Mohammed was living in Waza Khwa, an impoverished district on the Pakistani border.
"Mohammed resisted the U.S. forces," Latifi told The Associated Press by satellite telephone from an undisclosed location.
He confirmed the death of Mohammed, who he said was a senior military commander in eastern Laghman province before the Taliban's ouster in 2001. He said Mohammed's wife and six of his children were also killed.
Latifi claimed that eight American soldiers died in the battle, but the American military said none of its soldiers was hurt.
Paktika lies in a swath of Afghan territory along the mountainous Pakistani frontier where a stubborn insurgency has exposed the feeble reach of the government of U.S.-backed President Hamid Karzai.
Taliban leaders have threatened a fresh offensive as the harsh Afghan winter wanes, but commanders of the 18,000 overwhelmingly American combat troops in Afghanistan and the separate 8,500-strong NATO security force insist the rebels are weakening.
News of the Paktika clash came a day after the U.S. military said its aircraft killed five suspected Taliban militants near the border in Khost province and also that U.S.-led troops had shot an Afghan boy during a search operation in a village near Asadabad in the eastern province of Kunar.
Afghan leaders have complained repeatedly that U.S. forces use excessive force during search operations and fail to consult with local authorities. U.N. and human rights officials have warned that civilian deaths are playing into the rebels' hands.
On Wednesday, a roadside bomb hit a U.S. Humvee near Kandahar Air Field, but none of the five American soldiers on board was injured, spokeswoman Lt. Cynthia Moore said.