300 killed in one week in Afghanistan —including civilians

From CNN, May 23:

Wave of violence in Afghanistan

Fighting this week in Afghanistan has been among the most intense since the U.S. invasion more than four years ago, with up to 300 people reported killed since last Wednesday.

The United States says it struck a blow against the Taliban on Monday when its warplanes killed as many as 80 people.

Afghans at the scene, however, say some of the victims were innocent civilians.

On Tuesday, news services reported new violence. The Associated Press reported that three health workers and a driver were killed when their vehicle struck a land mine near the capital of Kabul.

The Reuters news service quoted government officials who reported that Taliban guerrillas attacked a convoy of provincial officials and police in the southern province of Helmand, killing three policemen and wounding six.

On Monday as many as 80 Taliban fighters and civilians were killed in a strike by U.S.-led coalition aircraft on a rebel stronghold in southern Afghanistan, according to reports.

The governor of Kandahar told reporters that 50 Taliban fighters and 15 civilians were killed. At least 16 civilians were wounded in the airstrike, the governor added.

A statement from the Coalition Press Information Center said coalition forces conducted the operation near the village of Azizi, the third in a week, which “resulted in the unconfirmed deaths of possibly up to 80 Taliban members.”

“Initial assessments have confirmed 20 Taliban killed with an unconfirmed 60 additional Taliban casualties.”

Lt. Col. Paul Fitzpatrick, Combined Joint Task Force – 76 spokesman, said coalition forces were aware of media reports of civilian casualties “and are continuing to review assessments from ground elements in the region.”

He said those people killed Monday “were active members of the Taliban network who conducted attacks against coalition and Afghan forces as well as civilians.”

The network members had attacked Afghan government officials and collected explosives to be used in improvised explosive devices, he said.

According to the figures from coalition and Afghan officials, the new deaths before those on Tuesday brought the toll of militants, Afghan forces and coalition soldiers and civilians killed to more than 280 since Wednesday.

A storm of violence has recently broken out in the south — among the deadliest combat in Afghanistan since the Taliban regime was ousted in 2001.

The Taliban resurgence, despite the presence of 30,000 foreign troops, including 23,000 from the United States, has halted much postwar reconstruction work and raised fears for the country’s future.

Meanwhile, Islamabad and Kabul engaged in a war of words over the violence, with Pakistani Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Tasnim Aslam saying her country should not be blamed for the bloodshed.

“The Afghan government’s failure to deal with the situation cannot be placed at Pakistan’s door,” she said at a weekly news conference, according to The Associated Press.

On Sunday, Afghan Foreign Minister Rangeen Dadfar Spanta told reporters in Kabul that Taliban leaders were in Pakistan and that “the movement and the communication during these terrorist attacks” came from the Pakistan side of the border.

See our last post on Afghanistan.