KABUL, Afghanistan – Fighting between Afghan soldiers and police in southern Afghanistan left 10 soldiers and police dead before U.S. troops intervened. Afghan insurgents also abducted a Turkish highway engineer and demanded the release six Taliban prisoners, officials said Saturday.
Both sides in the fierce, five-hour battle are loyal, in name at least, to President Hamid Karzai (search)'s U.S.-backed government. But clashes between police and the army have broken out in many parts of Afghanistan where they fall under rival warlords and control by Karzai's government is limited.
During the battle, dozens of men fired rockets and heavy weapons in a residential area of Geriesh district, 90 miles west of Kandahar. Two soldiers and as many as eight police were killed, Afghan officials said.
The fighting stopped only after U.S. troops and helicopters were requested by provincial authorities to help them control the situation, said deputy provincial governor, Haji Pir Mohammed.
It was not clear what sparked the fighting.
The kidnapping, meanwhile, took place, where Hasan Onal and his Afghan driver were abducted Thursday by armed men in a vehicle who intercepted them, blindfolded them and took them away, Turkish officials said.
Onal had been working since June on the contract to repair part of the 300 mile highway between Kabul and the southern city of Kandahar (search), a high-profile project financed mostly by the United States.
The kidnappers released the driver on Friday with a note demanding the release of six men being held by U.S. forces in the southern province of Gazni, said Kurtulus Ergin, the Kabul manager of the construction firm. Turkish officials said kidnappers demanded that the six be released within two days.
Ergin said when he contacted the kidnappers on Onal's satellite telephone, they identified themselves as members of the Al Qaeda terrorist network.
"They told us our friend was not with them" any longer, Ergin said. He also was told Onal was in good health.
In Ankara, Turkish officials blamed the kidnapping on fugitive Taliban fighters.
Foreign Minister Abdullah Gul (search)said Turkey was trying to secure Onal's release and his ministry was in touch with Pakistan and the United States.
"We're doing everything necessary to rescue our engineer without him suffering any harm," Gul told reporters in Turkey.
The Louis Berger group, of East Orange, N.J., which is in overall charge of the highway project, has complained of continuing instability on the highway, particularly its southern part.