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15 insurgents killed in Nato raid

A raid by Nato soldiers and a subsequent airstrike in southern Afghanistan has killed 15 insurgents, Nato said, although a local official initially reported a higher death toll.

Nato confirmed there had been an operation involving coalition and Afghan security forces to detain a senior Taliban leader followed by an airstrike in Helmand province.

"Upon arrival at the suspected location the joint security force immediately took fire from several insurgents in a series of engagements. The joint security force returned fire, killing four insurgents," the statement said.

Nearby compounds were searched and a bomb-making factory and weapons cache discovered, Nato said. The soldiers decided to destroy them, but 11 gunmen on motorbikes and in three vehicles approached the site at high speed. The soldiers determined they were a threat and killed them, the statement said, before calling in an air strike to destroy the compounds.

Earlier, the head of Helmand's provincial council, Fazal Bari, said local officials had told him that around 25 people had been killed. He said four Taliban commanders were among those killed in the raid in Baghran district, Helmand's northernmost district about 100 miles north of the provincial capital of Lashkar Gah.

Only two walls and one small room of a building he described as a mosque were now standing, and villagers were digging the dead out from under the rubble with farming tools and washing them for burial. Nearby houses had also been damaged, and some civilians were wounded and a 10-year-old child killed, a witness said

Nato said that they had no report of a mosque damaged or any civilians injured or killed.

Last year, Nato tightened the rules of engagement, including the use of airstrikes, if civilians were at risk. Deaths attributed to allied troops have since dropped by nearly 30% .

In an unrelated incident, an insurgent attack in eastern Afghanistan killed a Nato service member, the coalition said, bringing to 50 the number of coalition soldiers killed this month. The statement did not provide further details on Sunday's death.

And in the eastern province of Khost, a suicide bomber blew up his vehicle at a checkpoint, killing two civilians and a police officer, said provincial police chief Abdul Hakin Esaqzoy. He said five police and five civilians were also wounded.


From Belfast Telegraph