Afghanistan: Raid kills rebels, frees hostages

Afghanistan Violence
An Afghan child allegedly wounded by coalition airstrikes stands with his father at a hospital southwest of Kabul on Thursday. The raid targeted a militant cell in the Zerko area of Shindand district that was involved in kidnappings, roadside bombings and other attacks, officials said. Fraidoon Pooyaa / AP
/ Source: The Associated Press

U.S. Special Forces and Afghan troops called in airstrikes during a raid on a militant cell in western Afghanistan on Thursday, killing 15 insurgents while freeing 15 hostages, officials said.

NATO, meanwhile, said its troops in the south have killed a senior Taliban commander, while the U.S.-led coalition reported its forces along with Afghan security forces killed "several militants" in the same region.

Gen. Mohammad Zahir Azimi, a Defense Ministry spokesman, said 15 militants, including two Taliban commanders, were killed during the operation in the western province of Herat.

Gen. Jalandar Shah, the Afghan army's corps commander for western Afghanistan, said U.S. Special Forces assisted Afghan troops during the operation.

Humayun Azizi, head of the provincial council, said the raid targeted a militant cell in the Zerko area of Shindand district that was involved in kidnappings, roadside bombings and other attacks.

Azimi said the raid in Shindand freed 15 hostages held by the group.

"During the operation a number of men were discovered handcuffed and imprisoned in appalling conditions in one of the insurgent compounds; they are now receiving medical care," a NATO statement said.

Four civilians were wounded during the operation and were brought to Herat hospital for treatment, Azizi said.

Abdul Shukur, the Shindand police chief, said three houses were destroyed. He said two local militant commanders and two of their sons were among the dead.

Separately, NATO said its troops have killed Bismullah Akhund, an insurgent leader in the southern province of Helmand. Akhund was killed on Saturday in Helmand's Naw Zad district, the alliance said in a statement.

NATO accused Akhund of supplying weapons and roadside bombs that have killed Afghan and foreign forces in the area — a hub of the insurgency raging in Afghanistan.

The U.S.-led coalition said "several militants" were killed in the Nahr Surkh district of Helmand on Wednesday. The militants had tried to engage patrolling coalition and Afghan forces "from a fortified position with small-arms fire and (rocket-propelled grenades)," the coalition said in a Thursday statement.

Also Thursday, the coalition said its troops along with Afghan security forces uncovered and destroyed a large weapons cache in northern Afghanistan, a usually quiet region.

More than 1,000 mortar rounds, 60 anti-aircraft rounds and several tons of small-arms ammunition and weapons were found Wednesday in the compound in She Shanben village of Sheberghan District in Jawzjan province following tips from local residents, according to a coalition statement.