15 killed during operation to retake Musa Qala

* Defence ministry spokesman says town has become base for ‘foreign terrorists’

KABUL: A NATO soldier, two children and 12 “terrorists” have been killed in the first day of an operation to retake the southern Afghan town of Musa Qala, the Afghan defence ministry said on Saturday.

The operation involving the Afghan army and NATO’s International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) officially kicked off on Friday afternoon although it had been building for weeks and some manoeuvres were already under way. “In this operation so far, 12 terrorists were killed, one captured and a number of weapons and ammunitions were seized,” a defence ministry statement said.

“And one ISAF soldier was killed as a result of a mine explosion,” it said.

An ISAF official confirmed the fatality, but said the nationality of the soldier could not yet be released. Two children in a vehicle in front of a Taliban patrol were also killed in a firefight, ministry spokesman General Mohammad Zahir Azimi told reporters. Five other civilians in the car were wounded, he said, accusing the rebels of using the vehicle as a shield.

Foreign terrorists: Musa Qala, in the opium-rich province of Helmand, has been in the Taliban control since early February, when hundreds of the rebels stormed in and took over.

Azimi said it had become a base for “foreign terrorists”. “Hundreds of terrorists had massed there,” he told reporters. afp

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