May 8, 2007, 14:51 GMT
Kabul - Afghanistan's Defence Ministry said Tuesday that Afghan forces backed by NATO air-support killed 64 suspected Taliban in an operation in southern Afghanistan in the past week.
The joint ongoing Afghan-NATO military Operation Tandar started in the Gerishk district of southern Helmand province on May 1.
'The dead bodies of Mullah Younis Akhund, Mullah Abdul Hadi Akhund, Mullah Abdul Aziz Akhund, Mullah Janan and Qari Ezatullah, the Taliban commanders, were left in the battlefield, and were identified,' the statement said.
Four Pakistani nationals, who had been wounded during the firefight were arrested by joint forces. Two of them succumbed to their injuries.
Afghan forces also seized some 33 weapons during the operation.
In a separate incident in Garmsir district of the same province on Monday, NATO forces destroyed four insurgents' vehicles during an airstrike killing all occupants, a statement said but without providing numbers.
Gholum Muhayoddin Ghori, an army commander in Helmand province said earlier that four Afghan national army soldiers were wounded when their patrol was attacked by suspected Taliban militants in Garmsir.
NATO aircraft were called in and four Taliban vehicles were destroyed during the air raid on Tuesday. A spokesman for NATO was not immediately available for comment.
Helmand, which is also the largest supplier of opium in Afghanistan, is heavily entrenched with Taliban militants, who control at least three districts.
Since the beginning of spring, some 5,500 Afghan and NATO forces have been conducting an operation dubbed Achilles to root out the militants from the province.
In a separate incident, a driver working with the United Nations in southern Kandahar province was shot dead on his way to work, while four national army soldiers were wounded in a separate incident in the same region, officials said Tuesday.
An unknown gunman riding a motorbike Tuesday opened fire on a 38- year-old driver known as Sadequllah with the UN office for refugees in Kandahar, the UN office in Kabul said in a statement.
'The motives for this attack need to be established, and we are working with the authorities in Kandahar to help the investigation,' Tom Koenigs, the special representative for the UN Secretary General in Afghanistan was quoted as saying by the statement.
'The safety and well-being of those Afghan and international staff who work for the UN in Afghanistan is a matter of paramount importance to us,' Keonigs said, adding that the UN would spare no efforts to ensure that 'Sadequllah's murderers are found and properly brought to account.'
One civilian died and two were injured Tuesday when they were caught in crossfire resulting from a Taliban ambush on foreign troops in southern Kandahar, the military said.
A firefight ensued as militants targeted vehicles of the NATO-led International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) with rocket-propelled grenades and small arms fire east of Kandahar, an ISAF statement said.
Troops returned fire and moved out of the area, which was then secured by Afghan police.
'Taliban extremists initiated this incident. They chose the time and location of the attack, deliberately putting the lives of civilians at risk,' said Lt Col Mike Smith, spokesman for ISAF Regional Command South.
An investigation was launched into the latest in a slew of civilian deaths in combat incidents in Afghanistan.
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