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Taliban win battle in Afghanistan, sources say

The Taliban claimed to have captured a district in Afghanistan after several days of fighting, NBC News reported Saturday. A police commander says: "We lost."
/ Source: NBC News and news services

The Taliban claimed to have captured a district in Afghanistan after several days of fighting, NBC News reported Saturday.

A local police commander, who asked not to be named, told NBC: "We lost." No official statement was made.

The Taliban attack on Barg-e-Matal in Nuristan province is part of their spring offensive called "Al Fataha."

However there have been reports that a senior Taliban commander, known as the "Radio Mullah," was killed during the fighting.

Officials were still trying to confirm claims by villagers who took part in the fighting that they had slain Maulana Fazlullah, who spearheaded the takeover of Pakistan's Swat Valley three years ago.

He gained prominence for his vehemently anti-Western sermons on local radio. Swat Valley, a former mountain resort area, fell under Taliban control until Pakistani forces drove them out last year.

Pakistani Taliban leaders said Fazlullah was in Nuristan but said they believed he was still alive.

Militant ambush
Meanwhile in Paktia province in eastern Afghanistan, militants ambushed an Afghan police convoy with a roadside bomb and gunfire, killing five officers before fleeing a NATO aerial bombardment, an official said Saturday.

Two militants were killed and up to six wounded in the battle Friday, said Ghulam Dastagir, the deputy provincial police chief.

He said the convoy was headed toward the Dandi Pathan district when one vehicle was hit by a roadside bomb blast, killing five officers and wounding the district police chief.

Militants opened fire after the blast, triggering a gunbattle that lasted several hours before NATO aircraft were called in.

NATO announced Friday that Afghan and international troops acting on intelligence information found and destroyed two bomb-making and weapons storage facilities this week in Kandahar province, and battled with militants who tried to defend them.

A cache found at one facility, in the Panjwai district, included high explosives, mortar rounds, roadside bombs, rocket-propelled grenades and automatic rifles, a NATO statement said.

At the other, mines, roadside bombs and a stockpile of materials and equipment for making more were found. The exact location was not disclosed.

The top U.S. commander in Afghanistan, Gen. Stanley McChrystal, and other dignitaries on Friday officially launched the construction of a rail link between northern Afghanistan and neighboring Uzbekistan.

The 50-mile line from the Afghan city of Mazar-e-Sharif to Termez in Uzbekistan will eventually carry millions of tons of goods between the two countries, officials said.

Transport routes from Central Asia are among key supply lines for trade in Afghanistan — and for U.S. military operations. Taliban militants have sought to disrupt and control transport routes all over the country.