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US Marines sweep 'Taliban' villages for home-made bombs

US, Afghan troops kill 20 insurgents: officials
Afghan and US forces killed 20 insurgents in separate operations in eastern and southern Afghanistan while a 12-year-old girl died in a roadside bomb blast, officials said Sunday. Afghan and US forces killed 16 insurgents during an overnight operation against Al-Qaeda in eastern Kunar province, which borders Pakistan's tribal regions, considered a hiding place for Islamist militants. "Today a joint security force killed more than a dozen militants and detained a suspected militant after searching a mountainside compound in Kunar province known to be used by an Al-Qaeda commander," NATO's International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) said in a statement. "During the search of the compound located near Tantil village, northeast of Jalalabad, the force received hostile enemy fire on two occasions and returned fire, killing the enemy militants. "The joint force also found a number of rocket-propelled grenades, machine guns, multiple AK-47 rifles and other grenades. All items were destroyed in place," the statement added. An ISAF spokesman said 16 people were killed and there were no civilian casualties. Kunar's police chief, Khalilullah Ziayi, said: "Sixteen people were killed. All of them were Taliban." However, in the village of Tantil, residents Asghar and Sayed Hassan insisted that those killed were civilians, among them an 80-year-old man, as well as nine members of one family. This claim could not be confirmed by official sources. Kunar is known for high levels of insurgent attacks and as a centre of operations by the powerful Haqqani insurgent group, named after Jalaluddin Haqqani, which cut its teeth resisting Soviet rule in the 1980s. In southern Helmand province, a Taliban bastion, the Afghan army killed four insurgents in Garmser district on Saturday. And in eastern Khowst province, a police car was struck by a roadside bomb but none of its passengers was injured, the interior ministry said. However, shrapnel also hit a nearby car, killing a 12-year-old girl and wounding three other civilians, the ministry said.
by Staff Writers
Kotalak, Afghanistan (AFP) Oct 11, 2009
An elderly Afghan woman, her hair dyed red and a black shawl draped over her shoulders, shouts as she aims a gun at US Marines who are arresting her husband as a suspected Taliban insurgent.

A Marine points his assault rifle at her and is ready to pull the trigger until the woman drops her rusty pistol.

Members of the 2nd Battalion 3rd Marines, accompanied by Afghan soldiers, were sweeping villages for militants early this week as part of Operation Germinate.

The aim of the operation was to reduce the threat of home-made bombs -- or improvised explosive devices (IEDs) -- hidden along the Bhuji Bhast Pass, which slices through a rocky valley in southwestern Farah province.

At least 30 villagers have been killed in the area by IEDs since the middle of this year, while dozens of Marines have sustained injuries ranging from concussion to fractures.

IEDs are the biggest killer of foreign soldiers in Afghanistan.

"It's to disrupt Taliban forces in the Bhuji Bhast Pass because within about a five-kilometre radius of here we have hit about 30 IEDs in the last five months, and that's just us," said Lieutenant Shane Harden, 29, of Germinate.

"We are trying to instill in the people of these villages a responsibility for their own security.

"(The insurgents are) not only killing American Marines but their own people. In order for this country to change they must stand up to the Taliban."

In the first two days of Operation Germinate, two IEDs were made safe and another three were found.

Back at the mud-brick compound in Kotalak -- one of a number of hostile villages lining the Bhuji Bhast Pass -- the Marines are arresting the elderly woman's husband and one-armed brother.

A search of their home turned up 15 bags of ammonium nitrate and 12 bags of sugar, common ingredients for making IEDs, as well as ammunition.

As the camouflage-clad Marines search the compounds -- mostly finding scrawny farm animals and dried poppies -- the village women in sequined burkas huddle in a corner, away from the eyes of the men.

"So far the operation has been pretty successful. I think we've definitely disrupted activity. This is a good find," said Harden.

A thorough search of the village also turns up grenades, Soviet-era rifles, more ammunition and Taliban propaganda.

Hundreds of Marines from the nearby military base at Golestan arrived here among the corn and cannabis fields by chopper and armoured vehicles before dawn.

As they headed to Kotalak at sunrise, militants fired several machine-gun rounds from the surrounding mountains until US choppers circled overhead.

One villager said insurgents used his village to make IEDs, coming down from the mountains by night and planting the bombs in the morning before retreating to the hills.

The Marines' company commander said he plans to hold a meeting with all village elders in the area to explain what his men are doing and to urge the locals to stop the insurgents using their homes as bomb factories.

"We are doing this because the IEDs here have got so bad so our only option is to sweep the village," Staff Sergeant Todd Bowers told 35-year-old Naza Modeen in Segosa village, near Kotalak.

Modeen, who sat and watched while Marines picked through his sparse belongings, told Bowers through a military interpreter: "It's good that you're here."

"We need good security in our village because the people here don't agree -- some of them like the Taliban. We don't have anybody in charge. We don't have 'elders', everybody says they're older and in charge," he said.

As the Marines tried to bed down for the night in one village compound, machine-gun and rocket fire from the nearby hills were a constant reminder of the proximity of the enemy.

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Tribal ties, Soviet legacy frustrate Afghan development
Golestan, Afghanistan (AFP) Oct 9, 2009
Bitter tribal rivalries and a Soviet legacy of destruction and plunder in Afghanistan are frustrating foreign forces' plans to develop villages and rid them of Taliban insurgents. A team of seven military development specialists attached to the 2nd Battalion 3rd Marines have been sent to the southwest to win over local elders with the promise of new irrigation systems - if they reject the ... read more

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