Vol. 5 Num 1022 Tue. April 17, 2007  

Key Taliban leaders killed, says Nato
Suicide bomber kills 9 Afghan cops

Nato-led troops said yesterday they had killed several key Taliban leaders in a series of airstrikes and raids targeting militants in southern Afghanistan during the past week.

The raids in the insurgency-hit southern province of Helmand were part of a major Nato-led International Security Assistance Force (Isaf) offensive launched by some 5,000 Afghan and foreign troops early last month, it said.

"Isaf, in joint operations with Afghan forces, launched a series of attacks and precision strikes against Taliban extremists in Helmand this week resulting in the elimination of several key extremist leaders," it said in a statement.

It did not give any further details on the identities or ranks of the Taliban leaders, nor of the locations or dates of the attacks.

"Striking at the heart of the problem and removing these key leaders has paid off," the statement quoted Isaf Commander for southern Afghanistan Major General Ton van Loon as saying.

"We fully realise the influence these Taliban extremist leaders have on the population of southern Afghanistan, who have clearly told us they felt like they were hostages in their own communities," the general said.

Meanwhile a Taliban suicide bomber blew himself up among a group of policemen in northern Afghanistan Monday, killing nine officers, the interior ministry and the militant movement said.

Another 25 policemen were wounded when the attacker, who was on foot, struck at about 9:00 am (0430 GMT) in the relatively peaceful northern city of Kunduz, ministry spokesman Zemarai Bashary said.

"There was a suicide bombing in front of a police station in Kunduz," Bashary told a news conference in Kabul.

"Unfortunately nine policemen were martyred and 25 others were wounded. The bombing coincided with the exercise time of the policemen," he added.

The bomber had spoken to his victims, who were performing morning exercises in the street outside the police station, before he detonated explosives strapped to his body, said Kunduz province governor Mohammad Omer.

Earlier gunmen shot dead a school headmaster in the southeastern province of Khost as he returned home late Sunday, police said, blaming "terrorists" for the attack.