NATO likens Taliban tactics to those of Hezbollah

Wednesday, August 16, 2006

KABUL, Afghanistan -- A senior NATO official likened the tactics of Taliban militants who hide among civilians to those of Hezbollah in Lebanon on Tuesday. U.S. and Afghan forces killed an al-Qaida suspect disguised as a woman during a raid.

Meanwhile, insurgents in western Afghanistan killed six police officers, including a new local police chief, and wounded four other officers.

Taliban-led militants have escalated attacks in recent months, sparking the deadliest fighting since the country's hard-line regime was ousted in the U.S.-led invasion in late 2001 for hosting Osama bin Laden.

Surprising intensity

Most of the violence has taken place in volatile southern provinces where a NATO-led force took control of security from the American-run coalition on Aug. 1. Militants have used suicide bombings, rocket attacks and ambushes with an intensity that has surprised Afghan and Western officials.

Hikmet Cetin, NATO's top civilian representative in Afghanistan, said the Taliban's method of blending in with local civilian populations after attacks is similar to a tactic used by Hezbollah and militants in his own country, Turkey, where troops are fighting separatist Kurdish guerrillas.

"This kind of strategy is very, very difficult not only for NATO in Afghanistan but also in other parts of the world," Cetin said at a news conference in the capital, Kabul.

Afghan and U.S. troops killed one al-Qaida suspect and detained 13 others Tuesday in a raid on eastern Afghanistan's Khost province, seizing numerous detonators and other bomb-making material, chief U.S. military spokesman Col. Tom Collins said.

Using a disguise

The troops asked people inside the compound in the village of Yaqubi to surrender. Most did, but a militant disguised as a woman resisted arrest and was shot dead, Collins said.

More than 60 women and children were inside the compound at the time of the operation, he said.

Militants also fatally shot a new local police chief and five other officers in an ambush on a desert road in the volatile Dalaram district of Farah province, provincial police chief Gen. Sayed Aqa Saqib said.

Taliban fighters have moved into the district after fleeing NATO-led military operations in southern Helmand province.

In neighboring Pakistan, government forces arrested 29 Taliban suspects, including two local militant commanders during a raid on a private hospital, Interior Minister Aftab Khan Sherpao said.

The raid took place at the Al-Khair Hospital in Quetta, capital of Baluchistan province -- a city viewed by Afghan and Western officials as a hotbed for Taliban militants and their leaders, despite persistent Pakistani denials.

Hospital official Mohammed Amir confirmed that 10 men who were arrested from the hospital were being treated for wounds sustained in fighting in southern Afghanistan's Kandahar province. It appeared that others arrested at the hospital had been accompanying the wounded.

With the increased violence in southern Afghanistan and NATO's deployment there, Western diplomatic pressure has been growing on Pakistan to crack down on militants and take more action to prevent cross-border infiltration.

Afghan soldiers elsewhere killed a police officer during an armed clash following a car crash, police said.

Five soldiers were arrested after the incident in the Jabalussaraj district of the northern Parwan province, said Gen. Abdul Rahman Sayidkhail, the province's police chief. Vehicles driven by the police and the soldiers crashed, sparking an argument and a gunbattle, during which soldiers shot the policeman dead, he said.

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