KABUL, Afghanistan – Taliban militants attacked a southern town Thursday, sparking intense fighting with Afghan troops that left two insurgents dead, the defense ministry said.
A NATO airstrike pushed back the militants, who used mortars, rocket-propelled grenades and heavy machine guns in the morning attack on Naw Zad, in volatile Helmand province, said Defense Ministry spokesman Gen. Zahir Azimi.
He said that the fighting between the Taliban and Afghan army troops was "intense."
In Zabul province, a suicide attacker plowed his explosives-filled car into a police convoy traveling on the main road, wounding three officers, said Jailan Khan, provincial police chief.
A purported Taliban regional Zabul commander, Mullah Nazir, claimed responsibility for the blast and said the bomber was an Afghan man from Khost province. His claim could not be independently verified.
NATO aircraft also dropped six bombs on two Taliban positions in Helmand's Musa Qala district on Wednesday, but there were no report of insurgent casualties, said Maj. Quentin Innis, a spokesman for the NATO-led force.
Helmand, particularly its three northern districts including Naw Zad, have seen some of the heaviest and most persistent fighting during this year's surge in violence in Afghanistan, the worst since the fall of the Taliban regime by U.S.-led forces in late 2001.
Before dawn Thursday, two rockets slammed into central Kabul, the capital. One landed in an upscale residential neighborhood, about 10 yards (meters) from the army chief of staff's house; the other landed in a park. There were no immediate reports of damage or injuries, witnesses and NATO said.
Kabul has been spared most of the violence that has wracked the south and east of the country, but occasional rocket attacks and roadside bombs have rattled it.