Afghan fighting kills more than 30 insurgents

Bombs and gunbattles across Afghanistan killed more than 30 insurgents, five civilians and two NATO coalition service members, officials said Monday, a round of violence that shows the challenges facing international forces seeking to handover security duties to their local counterparts.

Two children were among four civilians killed Monday in eastern Paktia province when a bomb ripped through the tractor they were riding on, said Ghulam Dastagir, deputy provincial police chief. He said it was unclear whether the bomb was planted on the road or on the vehicle.

In northern Kunduz province, insurgents attacked a checkpoint set up by a local police force, sparking heavy fighting. Two police officers were killed, along with 17 of the attackers, said local police chief Mohammad Ayub Haqyar.

The United States invaded Afghanistan in 2001, seeking to dislodge the Taliban regime and kill or capture al-Qaida members sheltering there. While welcomed by some Afghans, the international force has met determined resistance from others, who object to foreigners on their soil.

The coalition wants to begin handing over the fight against the Taliban to local police and army forces it has spent millions training and gradually withdraw its own soldiers. It also says some form of negotiated settlement with the insurgents will be needed.

Also in Kunduz, an overnight operation saw a joint Afghan and NATO force kill Fared Gul, an alleged Taliban fighter involved in planting roadside bombs and organizing attacks on coalition convoys and aircraft, the military alliance said.

In a separate statement, NATO said two international service members were killed in a bomb strike in southern Afghanistan, but provided no other details or the nationalities. So far this month, 45 NATO service members have been killed in the Afghan conflict, including at least 38 Americans, who make up the bulk of the 130,000-strong alliance.

In the east in Kunar province, insurgents attacked a patrol of Afghan soldiers and NATO forces, starting a gunbattle that left six militants dead. No government or NATO forces died, said police Gen. Khalilullah Zaiyi.

In the south, a man working on a stream clearing project in Kandahar province was killed by an unknown gunman Sunday in front of his children, according to the governor's office. Residents are working on development projects in the area that are being targeted by insurgents trying to stall government efforts to gain control of their former strongholds.

In an operation in southern Helmand on Sunday, NATO and Afghan forces killed at least three insurgents in a battle that broke out as they searched for a Taliban leader believed to be hiding out in Now Zad district. It was not clear if the targeted leader was among the dead, NATO said.

Separately, seven militants were killed during a clearing operation that ended Sunday night in western Herat province, said Najibullah Najibi, a spokesman for the Afghan army commander for the western provinces. One Afghan soldier was killed during the two-day offensive in Pashtun Zarghun district, he said.