HERAT, Afghanistan (Reuters) – U.S.-led coalition and Afghan forces backed by airpower have killed or wounded more than 30 Taliban insurgents in fighting in the west of Afghanistan, a senior police official said on Tuesday.
There has been a sharp rise in violence in Afghanistan in the past two months as the summer fighting season gets into full swing. Security analysts predict July could be the worst month of violence since the Taliban relaunched their insurgency in 2005.
Fighting broke out in the Bala Boluk district of Farah province on Tuesday, regional police chief Ikramuddin Yawar said.
“So far more than 30 Taliban insurgents have been killed or wounded in the operation,” Yawar told Reuters. “The toll might be more than 30 because the operation is ongoing.”
A U.S.-led convoy was engaged with small arms fire and rocket-propelled grenades on Tuesday morning in Bala Boluk, a U.S. military spokesman said.
Air strikes were called in but no munitions were dropped. The U.S. military could not confirm if there were any Taliban dead, the U.S. spokesman said. International forces do not usually give casualty figures for insurgents.
In the capital, Kabul, a Taliban suicide bomber wounded five civilians, two of them lightly, when he blew himself up as he was challenged by police on Tuesday, the Interior Ministry said.
Taliban militants have launched some 100 suicide attacks so far this year, mostly targeting Afghan and international security forces, but as much as 80 percent of their victims are civilians, security experts say.
The bomber struck early in the morning in the Gozargah area of the capital, next to the walls of the historic tomb of Babur, the 16th century founder of India’s Mughal dynasty. Only a leg of the bomber remained, lying on the ground, Reuters witnesses said.
The Taliban claimed responsibility for the attack and said it targeted an Afghan army bus, but there were no buses in the area at the time.
Bomb attacks in Kabul are comparatively rare compared with cities in the south and east, where the Taliban insurgency is concentrated.
The Taliban have carried out about the same number of suicide attacks in Afghanistan so far this year compared with the same period last year. Security forces have prevented a much greater number of potential attacks, indicating a degree of success on their part, but also that the militants are attempting many more suicide bombings, security experts say.
Afghan forces beefed up security in Kabul early this year in an attempt to clamp down on suicide bombings, but some militants have still managed to get through the cordon.
A suicide car bomber killed 58 people and wounded well over 100 in an attack on the Indian Embassy in Kabul on July 7, the most deadly incident in the capital to date.