Shootout between Taliban, Afghan soldiers leaves five dead

Friday, April 25, 2003

KANDAHAR, Afghanistan -- Taliban fighters attacked a government office in southern Afghanistan with rockets and automatic weapons, setting off a four-hour shootout that left two Afghan soldiers and three assailants dead, a senior official said on Thursday.

The battle took place late Wednesday at Chapan in Zabul province, 150 miles northeast of the city of Kandahar, provincial governor Hamidullah Kahn Tokhi said.

Tokhi said about 80 Taliban fighters fired first rockets and then automatic weapons at the office of Chapan district authorities. "Afghan soldiers also fired back. After four hours, the Taliban escaped," Tokhi said.

He said the assailants retreated to a nearby mountainous region.

Remnants of former Taliban and al-Qaida have stepped up attacks in recent months on government offices and foreigners, highlighting the task facing Afghan President Hamid Karzai in extending his authority in the war-ravaged country.

Near Pakistan border

Many of the attacks have occurred in areas of southern Afghanistan, close to the mountainous border with Pakistan, where many Taliban militants are believed to be hiding.

Two Afghan soldiers were killed on Wednesday when a land mine blew up their vehicle when they were traveling between Jalalabad, the capital of eastern Nangarhar province, and Tora Bora.

Afghan authorities have said that Taliban remnants are regrouping, and have called on Pakistan to do more to prevent militants from crossing the countries' long, porous frontier.

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