Image: Afghan boy
Fraidoon Pooyaa  /  AP
A boy carries his belongings next to the rubble of his home which was destroyed in a U.S. airstrike in the villiage of Azizabad in the Shindand district of Herat province, Afghanistan, Saturday, Aug 23, 2008. The U.S.-led coalition said Saturday that it would investigate allegations of civilian deaths during a battle in western Afghanistan.
updated 8/24/2008 1:56:31 PM ET 2008-08-24T17:56:31

U.S.-led coalition troops clashed with a group of Taliban fighters in northern Afghanistan on Sunday, killing six militants, while four militants were killed in a battle in the south, officials said.

President Hamid Karzai, meanwhile, sacked two Afghan army officers following a joint Afghan-coalition operation in the country's west that he said killed at least 89 civilians.

Violence has spiked around Afghanistan in recent weeks, and the Taliban have stepped up attacks against international troops.

In the north, coalition troops returned fire after being attacked by militants while on patrol in the volatile Tagab valley of Kapisa province, said coalition spokesman 1st Lt. Nathan Perry.

Rahimullah Safi, the province's deputy governor, said six militants were killed in the clash, while Perry said "multiple militants" were killed.

Tagab is close to where militants killed 10 French troops Tuesday in the deadliest ground attack on foreign troops since the Taliban were ousted from power in 2001.

In southern Helmand province Sunday, four militants were killed by NATO aircraft and Afghan troops, the military alliance said in a statement.

Troops fired on the militants after they attacked an Afghan army unit that was guarding a satellite station in Helmand's Musa Qala district, the statement said.

Helicopter crashes leaving NATO base
In the eastern Kunar province, a civilian Mi-8 supply helicopter contracted by NATO-led troops crashed shortly after takeoff Sunday, killing one person on board and wounding three others, the alliance said in a statement. The helicopter was leaving a NATO base in the area when it crashed.

The alliance did not release the nationalities of the civilians or say what caused the crash.

In the western Afghan city of Farah, a suicide attacker wearing a burqa — the traditional women's all-encompassing dress — detonated his explosives near a convoy of Afghan soldiers , wounding two soldiers and two civilians, said provincial police chief Khalil Rahmani.

Separately, three civilians were killed and seven others wounded when their vehicle was hit Sunday by a roadside bomb in the eastern Khost province, said provincial police chief Abdul Qayum Bakizoy.

Bakizoy blamed "enemies of Afghanistan" for planting the bomb.

More than 3,400 people — mostly militants — have been killed in insurgency-related violence this year, according to figures from Western and Afghan officials.

Last week the U.S. military suffered its 101st death, when Sgt. 1st Class David J. Todd Jr., 36, died in a gunfire attack. Last year U.S. troops suffered a record 111 deaths.

This year will likely be the deadliest for international troops since the 2001 invasion. Some 188 international soldiers, including the 101 Americans, have died in Afghanistan this year, according to an Associated Press count. That pace should far surpass the record 222 international troop deaths in 2007.

Senior army officials dismissed
President Karzai, meanwhile, dismissed two senior Afghan army officials for their involvement in an "irresponsible" military operation Friday in western Afghanistan that Afghan officials said killed scores of civilians gathered for the memorial ceremony of a militia commander.

Karzai ordered the Defense Ministry to investigate Gen. Jalandar Shah, the corps commander for the Afghan National Army in Herat, and Maj. Abdul Jabar, the commander of the commando unit involved in the Friday raid in Azizabad village of Herat's Shindand district.

An Afghan human rights group that visited the site of the operation said Saturday that at least 78 people were killed in clashes and an airstrike. The Ministry of Interior has said 76 civilians died, including 50 children under the age of 15, though the Ministry of Defense said 25 militants and five civilians were killed.

Karzai said Sunday that at least 89 civilians were killed.

Originally the U.S. coalition said the battle killed 30 militants, including a wanted Taliban commander, but U.S. coalition spokeswoman Rumi Nielson-Green said Saturday that five civilians — two women and three children connected to the militants — were among the dead.

The U.S. said it would investigate.

The operation Friday was led by Afghan National Army commandos, with support from the coalition, Nielson-Green said.

It was launched after an intelligence report that a Taliban commander, Mullah Siddiq, was inside the compound presiding over a meeting of militants, Defense Ministry spokesman Gen. Mohammad Zahir Azimi said. Siddiq was one of those killed during the raid, Azimi said.

Copyright 2008 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.


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