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Afghans Take 5 Taliban Rebels

September 07, 2003|From Associated Press

QALAT, Afghanistan — Afghan forces in the southern province of Zabol captured five Taliban militants, including an insurgent leader, after a battle that killed at least 84 rebels, Afghan and U.S. officials said Saturday.

The main Afghan commander in Zabol province, Haji Saifullah Khan, said his troops captured the Taliban fighters Friday. The captives included a junior rebel commander identified as Mullah Salam.

The fleeing Taliban were retreating from Dai Chupan, the Zabol district that has been the scene of intense fighting lately. The battles there have been some of the heaviest since the U.S.-led coalition ousted the hard-line Islamic Taliban in late 2001.

Khan said hundreds of Afghan National Army troops were expected to be deployed in Zabol province next week to maintain security.

Meanwhile, U.S. troops remained in Dai Chupan and in eastern Paktika province, bordering Pakistan, searching for Taliban holdouts.

Although Afghan officials claimed victory Wednesday after a nine-day battle in Dai Chupan, the U.S. military said it considered the operations ongoing.

Afghan military commanders claim they retrieved the bodies of at least 124 Taliban killed in the fighting in Dai Chupan. The U.S. military said it could confirm that at least 84 enemy fighters were killed.

The fighting -- following a series of Taliban attacks against Afghan officials, police and aid workers in the south and east -- has underscored the security problems faced by President Hamid Karzai's interim government, which assumed power shortly after the Taliban's ouster.

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