U.S. jets bomb suspected Taliban hideouts in Zabul

Friday, August 29, 2003

KANDAHAR, Afghanistan -- U.S. fighter jets and helicopters bombed suspected Taliban hideouts Thursday in Afghanistan's rugged southern mountains following intense battles between the insurgents and Afghan troops, officials said.

The troops were trying to flush out the Taliban from Zabul province when the guerrillas attacked with heavy machine guns in the Chinaran mountains, Haji Granai, an Afghan military commander, told The Associated Press by satellite telephone from Chinaran.

Khalil Hotak, chief of provincial intelligence, said the fighting lasted four hours with the Taliban guerrillas entrenched in a gorge, making it difficult for the Afghan and coalition forces to move against them.

Five Taliban bodies were found in a bunker, and four Afghan soldiers were wounded, he said.

Two U.S. bombers and two helicopters helped, Granai said as explosions boomed in the background.

There was no independent confirmation of the account, and no comment from the U.S. military.

In fighting earlier this week, Zabul's governor, Hafizullah Hashami, said about 40 Taliban and three Afghan soldiers were killed in the ongoing operation to clear guerrillas from the province.

Khalil Hotak, the head of intelligence in Zabul, said troops were also searching village homes. He said the insurgents were led by Mullah Arif.

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