Coalition Troops Kill 30 Taliban in Afghanistan

Coalition and Afghan forces hunting a Taliban commander killed an estimated 30 extremists Tuesday in a raid on a hide-out in southern Afghanistan, the military said.

The firefight came a day after a U.S. warplane bombed another militant hide-out in southern Afghanistan, killing more than 40 Taliban fighters, the military said. Wounded Afghans from the raid said Tuesday that children and women were killed.

The renewed violence came as Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld made an unannounced visit to the Afghan capital, Kabul, on for talks with President Hamid Karzai on the escalating violence.

At a joint news conference with Karzai, Rumsfeld said militants "don't want to see a country like Afghanistan have a successful democracy."

"They won't succeed," he added.

CountryWatch: Afghanistan

More than 700 people, mostly militants, have died since mid-May in the deadliest violence since the Taliban's late 2001 ouster, according to Afghan and coalition casualty figures tallied by The Associated Press.

Tuesday's raid took place in Sangin village in the volatile Helmand province, where more than 3,000 NATO-led British troops have been deploying to take over security control from U.S. forces.

"The purpose of this operation was to capture or kill a Taliban commander and his close associates, who have actively planned and carried out attacks on Afghan and Coalition Forces in the Helmand and Kandahar provinces," the military said in a statement.

It didn't identify the Taliban commander and it was unclear if he was among the 30 militants the military estimated were killed. The military did not explain how it came to that figure.

Troops were tipped off on the location of the militant hide-out after interviewing detained fighters, the military said. They also destroyed a weapons cache.

As the troops left the area, a malfunctioning helicopter was damaged "beyond repair" in an emergency landing and destroyed by a coalition airstrike. No coalition or Afghan forces were hurt.

The raid was conducted as part of Operation Mountain Thrust, a large-scale anti-Taliban offensive across southern Afghanistan involving more than 10,000 U.S.-led troops.

Also Tuesday, a roadside bomb blast killed one Afghan policeman and wounded two others in Kandahar province's Khakrez district, said Daoud Ahmedi, spokesman to the provincial governor.

On Monday, a U.S. war plane dropped four 500-pound bombs on what the military said was a militant hide-out in southern Uruzgan province's capital of Tirin Kot. More than 40 extremists were killed, the military said.

But witnesses, including an Afghan woman with face and leg injuries, said at least four civilians were killed and wounded and homes destroyed by at least two helicopter gunships that fired on the town.

Lying in a Kandahar hospital, Didi Feroza, said she was awakened early Monday by a loud explosion and went to her roof to see at least two helicopter gunships flying over Tirin Kot and firing.

"I ran outside with my 6-year-old niece to get away and was hit by shrapnel," Feroza told an Associated Press reporter. "I turned around and saw my niece had been hit and she was dead."

Feroza said she did see Taliban militants in the town who were running from the scene of the attack.

Nida Mohammed, who accompanied a wounded relative to the Kandahar hospital, said two of his nephews, aged 8 and 10, and his 30-year-old brother-in-law were killed in Monday's raid.

"I saw women, men and children killed and wounded," Mohammed said. "Ten to 12 homes were totally destroyed. It was a day from hell. We are innocent people who don't help the Taliban, but they destroyed our homes."

Uruzgan's provincial governor declined to comment, while U.S. military officials were not immediately aware of any civilian casualties.

Last month, Karzai criticized the U.S.-led coalition's anti-terror campaign, deploring the deaths of hundreds of Afghans and appealing for more help for his government.