Clash in Southern Afghanistan Leaves 22 Dead

Clashes across volatile southern Afghanistan killed nine police and at least 13 suspected Taliban, while an attacker detonated a car bomb near a U.S.-led coalition convoy, wounding a coalition soldier, officials said Saturday.

The violence comes amid the deadliest upsurge in militant attacks and fighting in Afghanistan since the ouster of the Taliban regime by U.S.-led forces nearly five years ago.

In the deadliest incident, insurgents attacked a police checkpoint on Friday, killing five policemen and wounding seven others in the Grieshk district of Helmand province, about 250 miles southwest of Kabul, said Ghulam Muhiddin, the Helmand governor's spokesman. Police returned fire and killed three Taliban and wounded two.

Muhiddin said the Taliban abducted four other police, and hundreds of police were hunting for them Saturday.

Suspected Taliban militants ambushed a convoy carrying Khash Rod district police chief in southwestern Nimroz province late Friday, killing the chief, Juma Khan, and three police riding with him, said Nimroz Gov. Ghulam Dasthaqir.

Police returned fire, killing three militants, he said. The remaining militants fled, leaving behind two assault rifles.

Four Taliban were killed late Friday in an exchange of fire with police in the Garamsair district of the southern Zabul province, district police chief Ghulam Rasool said. He said no police officers were wounded.

Also Friday, police raided a Taliban hide-out in a remote area of Zabul province, triggering a shootout in which three insurgents died, said provincial police chief Noor Mohammad Paktin.

He said police seized three assault rifles and two satellite phones from the hide-out.

In Kandahar province, the Afghan army supported by airstrikes launched an operation Saturday against Taliban militants in the districts of Panjwayi and Zadi, said Gov. Asadullah Khalid, who reported that the militants had suffered some casualties. He had no further details.

Khalid said authorities there were forbidding any traffic -- including cars, motorbikes and even bicycles -- on roads other than the main Highway One during the operation because of the presence of Taliban fighters. He warned that any vehicle seen on the roads "will be targeted."

In the east, an assailant driving an explosives-laden Toyota sedan attacked a convoy of Afghan and U.S.-led coalition forces in the Bati Kot district of Nangarhar province, said provincial police spokesman Ghafor Khan.

He said three people were wounded -- one coalition solider, an Afghan soldier and an Afghan translator. The unidentified attacker died.

Coalition spokeswoman Lt. Tamara Lawrence confirmed that a coalition soldier and an Afghan soldier had been wounded in a blast near the Nangarhar capital of Jalalabad. However, she said it was a roadside bomb.

Taliban fighters often target Afghan and foreign forces. Also Friday, insurgents killed a British soldier and wounded another in Helmand, where Britain has deployed nearly 4,000 troops as part of a NATO-led security force battling to bring security to the country's turbulent south.

CountryWatch: Afghanistan