Over 100 killed in three-day offensive in Afghanistan

By Xinhua

Kabul : Over 50 civilians and 60 insurgents were killed during a three-day offensive by NATO and Afghan forces against Taliban militants in Uruzgan province of southern Afghanistan, officials said Tuesday.

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However, the NATO-led International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) disputed the number of civilian casualties, saying only 10 civilians were injured.

Mawlawi Hamidullah, chief of Uruzgan provincial council, said ISAF and Afghan forces launched a massive operation against Taliban militants in Chora district from Saturday to Monday.

During the three-day operation, 50 to 70 civilians were killed and 100 injured, while 60 to 70 Taliban militants were killed, Hamidullah said, adding militants killed some civilians, while others lost their lives to ISAF bombings.

However, other officials gave varying figures about the casualties.

Uruzgan Police Chief Mohammad Qasim said 50 to 60 insurgents, four policemen were killed and 18 civilians were injured in the conflict.

Hajj Abdul Khaliq, a parliament member from the province, said at least 30 civilians were killed and 55 others injured during the clash.

A local resident Abdul Malik said Taliban fires and ISAF bombings killed 12 of his family members.

However, an ISAF spokesman John Thomas said ISAF had "pretty credible reports" based on ISAF channel on the ground, which showed only about 10 civilians were injured.

During the operation, one ISAF soldier was killed and three injured, while two policemen were also killed, he added.

ISAF operations in the area may not be over as yet, Thomas said, adding ISAF and Afghan forces would exert their efforts to control the area.

About 37,000 ISAF and 13,000 coalition troops are operating in the country to hunt down militants and keep security.

The foreign troops have mistakenly killed Afghan civilians from time to time when carrying out operations.

A US soldier opened fire toward civilians rampantly after a suicide bombing on June 16 in Kabul, killing at least one civilian and injuring another.

According to Afghan officials, coalition forces killed 51 civilians in two operations in the western Herat province late April. The killing resulted in mass demonstrations in many places across Afghanistan.

ISAF and coalition forces have complained that Taliban insurgents mingle with civilians and therefore civilian casualties are caused.