KABUL (AFP) — A wave of clashes in Afghanistan killed more than 70 people, including 18 policemen and four Canadian soldiers Friday, officials said, amid alarm about the country’s mounting Taliban-led insurgency.
The growing unrest has led Washington to deploy 17,000 more troops to Afghanistan, due in the coming weeks, in a move a NATO general said would trigger more violence but would help improve security in the longer run.
The four Canadians, part of the international assistance force, were killed in two separate explosions that also killed an interpreter and injured eight soldiers and an Afghan national, the Canadian military said.
The first incident happened at 6:45 am local time, Brigadier-General Jon Vance, the Canadian commander in Kandahar, said in an address televised in Canada from a base in southern Afghanistan.
“Two Canadian soldiers were killed and five wounded when an improvised explosive device detonated in the vicinity of their dismounted patrol in Zari district, 40 kilometres (25 miles) west of Kandahar City,” he said.
A local interpreter was also killed during this attack. Another Afghan national was injured.
The second blast occurred two hours later, killing two more Canadian soldiers and wounding three. Their vehicle struck a roadside bomb about 20 kilometres (12 miles) northeast of Kandahar City, said Vance.
Nine of the policemen were killed along with a district chief in a clash Friday with Taliban in the northern province of Jawzjan, an unusual battlefield for the extremists, who focus on southern and eastern Afghanistan.
“Today in a clash between Taliban and police, the district chief and nine police were killed,” provincial police chief Khalil Aminzada told AFP.
The fighting was in a district called Koshtipa, on the border with Turkmenistan, he said.
Nine other policemen were killed and three wounded in the southwestern province of Farah when a mob of Taliban attacked them, provincial governor Rohul Amin told AFP. Six of the attackers also died in the fighting, he said.
The clash followed fighting earlier in the day when Afghan and US-led troops were called in after intelligence was received of a plan to attack the governor’s home, Amin said. Seven Taliban were killed in that exchange, he said.
Elsewhere in Farah Friday, a suicide bomber blew up a bomb-filled police vehicle and killed one policeman and wounded two, the governor said. The vehicle had previously been stolen by the insurgents.
The deadliest fighting was on Thursday, when Afghan and US-led troops killed 30 militants in the flashpoint southern province of Helmand, in a district where a key anti-Taliban lawmaker was killed in a bomb attack the same day.
The Afghan army led a joint patrol into an area of Gereshk district where gunmen were known to operate and they came under attack, the US military said in a statement.
The “combined element returned fire with small-arms and close air support, killing 30 militants,” it added.
The toll was the highest from a single clash announced by the military in more than two months, with Afghanistan gearing up for another year of intense fighting after the winter.
The US military also announced Friday that six more alleged insurgents were killed in operations in Kunar, Logar and Helmand provinces.
The escalating conflict in a Taliban-led insurgency has caused concern among the international community trying to stabilise the war-torn nation.
US President Barack Obama has ordered 17,000 extra US troops for southern Afghanistan and a top-to-bottom review of his war policy, shifting the focus from Iraq to Afghanistan and Pakistan.
Dutch commander Major General Mart de Kruif, who heads NATO troops in the south, said Friday that the arrival of more US troops would trigger a rise in violence but improve security in the longer run.
“I’m absolutely sure that we will see a very important year in RC (Regional Command) South, that we will see a spike in incidents once the US force hits the ground, but the situation will significantly change in a positive way within the next year,” Kruif told reporters by video link.
There are currently 75,000 international soldiers deployed in Afghanistan, about 38,000 of them Americans, to help Kabul fight the insurgency, which last year reached its deadliest point yet.
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