KANDAHAR, Afghanistan – The U.S.-led coalition on Friday said 25 Taliban were killed in a joint operation with Afghan forces in the country's south, while a rare gunbattle near the capital killed one militant.
About a 1,000 South Korean Christians ordered out of Afghanistan amid rumors they sought Christian converts in this Muslim country prepared to depart on Friday.
The joint attack on the Taliban occurred Thursday in the village of De Adam Khan in Helmand province, a coalition statement said.
NATO took charge of security in the south this week amid a barrage of violence that has left seven of its soldiers dead. However, the U.S.-led coalition, which is not under NATO command, has retained responsibility for counterterrorism operations and can still operate there.
A spokesman for the U.S.-led coalition, Col. Thomas Collins, wouldn't divulge details of the operation, but said: "This engagement shows that coalition forces, working in concert with Afghan security forces, will counter the Taliban in all regions of the country."
Provincial police chief Ghulam Nabi Malakhai, describing the same incident, said nine Taliban fighters were killed and 14 wounded. It wasn't immediately possible to reconcile the differing figures.
Militants attacked a police checkpoint in a rare attack on the outskirts of Kabul, sparking a firefight that left one insurgent dead. Twelve men fired on the checkpoint for an hour before fleeing Thursday night, said police official Ali Shah Paktyawal.
President Hamid Karzai condemned a suicide car bombing at a market in the southern province of Kandahar that killed 21 civilians on Thursday, calling it a "cowardly attack against our Muslim people, against the Afghan people."
Karzai also expressed sorrow on behalf of the Afghan people for the deaths of four Canadian soldiers in attacks in the same vicinity as the market.
He thanked the international community "for their willingness to put their lives in danger for the sake of peace and stability in Afghanistan."
Kang Sung-han, the spokesman for a group of South Korean Christians, denied allegations that the group — which had planned to stage a three-day sports and culture festival starting Saturday — had sought converts to Christianity.
Interior Ministry spokesman Yousef Stanezai said late Thursday the Koreans entered the country with tourist visas, but their activities showed they had a different agenda.
"The program was against the Islamic culture and customs of Afghans," he said.
However, on Friday deputy interior minister Abdul Adhy Khalid softened the government's stance, saying they were asked to leave because of security concerns sparked by rumors they were proselytizing.
"They are welcome back any time," Khalid said.
The Korean group, a private organization called the Institute of Asian Culture and Development, said in a statement on its Web site that the event they had planned was a "goodwill sports and culture festival aimed at encouraging Afghan people rebuilding their country after the war."
Over the past week, a number of Muslim clerics and government officials alleged the South Koreans were seeking converts, behaving immorally, and should be thrown out of the country.