Coalition Forces Kill Taliban Commander, 28 Militants in Afghanistan Over 24 Hours

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A coalition forces airstrike killed a local Taliban commander and 15 other militants in fighting in southern Afghanistan, the U.S. military said Saturday.

The strike brought rebel casualties to 28 over the past 24 hours.

The "militants' safe house" was targeted Friday in the central Khod Valley of the Uruzgan Province, and the slain leader was a "known Taliban commander," a U.S. military statement said.

CountryWatch: Afghanistan

It did not name the local commander, and only said those killed in the fighting were "involved in conducting attacks against the Afghan people and against Afghan, ISAF and Coalition forces."

There were no injuries to civilians during the operation as the "coalition forces used deliberate measures to limit the chances of property damage, and due to the precision of the air strike, no damage was reported to a mosque located adjacent to the militants' safe house," the statement said.

The operation came the same day a roadside bomb and a gunfight in eastern Afghanistan left two French soldiers dead and another two wounded as at least 13 insurgents were killed in clashes with police and NATO in the south.

The soldiers died when a roadside bomb exploded while they were conducting a combat patrol in eastern Laghman province on Friday, triggering a gunfight between coalition forces and "a group of enemy extremists," the U.S. military said in an earlier statement.

The wounded soldiers were transported to a hospital where they were listed as being in a stable condition.

In southern Helmand province, NATO-led forces used artillery against an insurgent convoy Friday, killing seven militants, an alliance spokesman said.

The convoy was spotted by British troops in the Musa Qala district of southern Helmand province before they ordered the strike, said Maj. Luke Knittig, a spokesman for the NATO-led force.

The insurgents were traveling in a 12-vehicle convoy before they were hit, he said. Three vehicles got away while eight were destroyed or disabled, Knittig said.

In Ghazni province, militants attacked an old Muqur district building early Saturday, killing one court official and wounding two policemen, said Abdul Ali Fakuri, spokesman for Ghazni's governor. Three vehicles were burned during the attack, he said.

Militants have stepped up attacks this year, triggering the deadliest violence in Afghanistan since the late-2001 ouster of the Taliban regime for hosting Al Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden. More than 1,600 people, mostly militants, have died in the past four months, according to an Associated Press tally of violent incidents reported by U.S., NATO and Afghan officials.

Also on Friday, police clashed with suspected Taliban militants in southern Afghanistan, killing six and wounding 12 insurgents, a district chief said.

One policeman was also wounded after militants attacked the Argandab district chief's compound in the southern province of Zabul, said Hussein Ali, the district chief.

The militants left the bodies and took away the wounded following the five-hour clash, Ali said. Police also recovered weapons from the scene, he said.

Meanwhile, President Hamid Karzai ordered a probe Friday into the killings of eight people in a raid U.S. forces claimed targeted al-Qaida members, but local police said were civilians — the second time in a week his government has questioned the military's tactics.

The inquiry into Thursday's killings in eastern Kunar province is Karzai's latest show of displeasure toward the coalition forces, which he depends on to protect his weak government from resurgent Taliban and Al Qaeda militants.

Karzai has repeatedly demanded foreign forces take more care to avoid civilians casualties when conducting operations.

The U.S. military said a joint American-Afghan force descended on a compound in Shigal district to nab an "Al Qaeda facilitator" wanted for attacks on coalition and Afghan forces in the region.

Gunmen inside the compound shot at the troops, who returned fire and killed seven suspected al-Qaida members, including the facilitator, the military said. A child was also killed in the clash and a woman wounded.

But police said U.S.-led forces attacked a building where two families were trying to resolve a dispute with the help of tribal elders.