Nato claims 100 Taliban dead, as provincial governor assassinated

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The Independent Online

Nato and government forces claim to have killed almost 100 Taliban insurgents in the past 48 hours in southern Afghanistan. They were killed in the Panjwayi and Zhari districts of Kandahar province, and bring the number of Islamist fighters killed in Nato's Operation Medusa to 420. The assault has lasted nine days so far. Six Nato soldiers and 14 British crew of a Nimrod aircraft have also been killed.

The Taliban also claimed another high-profile victim with the assassination of the Governor of Paktia province, Abdul Hakim Taniwal, a former minister for mines and industry in the government of President Hamid Karzai. He was killed along with his nephew and a bodyguard when a suicide bomber threw himself at his car outside his office in the provincial capital of Gardez. Mohammed Hanif, who claims to speak for the Taliban, claimed responsibility in a phone call. "Our mujahedin will conduct similar attacks. We have prepared a group of self-sacrificing attackers," he said.

US authorities said a suicide-bombing cell was operating in Kabul, which was targeting foreigners. The warning came two days after a car bomber rammed an American convoy near the US embassy, killing 16 people, the worst such attack in the capital since the 2001 war.

"This cell is alive and working and remains very much a threat," said Colonel Tom Collins, the chief US spokesman. "The coalition had intelligence that a suicide bomber was lurking in Kabul. What we didn't have was a description of the attacker or licence plate for his vehicle. But, somehow, I believe somewhere out there someone knew this guy and had information that could have saved a lot of lives that day, had they reported it."

More than a hundred Taliban fighters raided a government compound in the western province of Farah, killing two policemen and setting fire to buildings. The Islamists, riding in pick-up trucks and firing grenades and AK-47 rifles, attacked the compound in the town of Kalaigar. A police chief, Sayed Agha, said the raid was the first in Kalaigar and was a worrying precedent for the west of the country, which has so far escaped the worst of the violence.

In another attack, Taliban fighters killed three Afghan soldiers and wounded eight in the southern province of Zabul.

The charity Christian Aid is warning that millions of Afghans in the north and west of the country face starvation after drought destroyed much of the harvest. Its survey, concentrating on 66 villages in the west and north-west, found that farmers in the worst-affected areas had lost 100 per cent of their crop after the rains failed last winter and spring.In the provinces of Herat, Badghis and Ghor, most of the water sources have dried up.

Nato leaders are meeting again this week to continue discussing a request from army commanders for 2,500 more troops, armour and aircraft. There has been no agreement on who would provide the forces. Germany and Turkey have indicated they have reached the limits of their capacity.