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Nine die in Afghan violence, U.S. says

Four militants and five Afghan civilians died in violence in southeast and central Afghanistan in the past week, the American military said Saturday.
/ Source: Reuters

Four militants and five Afghan civilians died in violence in southeast and central Afghanistan in the past week and U.S. and Swedish aid agencies were attacked in an eastern city, the U.S. military said on Saturday.

On the border with Pakistan, Pakistani forces for the first time assisted U.S.-led forces in directing fire on a militant position after a rocket attack on a southern town, Maj. Scott Nelson told a briefing.

He said the four militants were killed and another wounded on Thursday when U.S.-led forces searched a compound north of Deh Rawud district in the central province of Uruzgan.

The civilians died the same day when their vehicle was blown up by a remote-controlled bomb detonated near an Afghan National Army convoy in Paktika province.

In other incidents, an improvised explosive device exploded at the USAID compound in the eastern city of Jalalabad on Wednesday and another near the compound of the Swedish aid agency, but caused no casualties, Nelson said.

He said both blasts took place just north of the U.S. military headquarters in the city.

Afghanistan has been troubled by Islamic militant violence since U.S.-led forces overthrew the fundamentalist Taliban in late 2001 for refusing to give up Osama bin Laden, the al-Qaida leader behind the Sept. 11 attacks on the United States.

Nelson praised Pakistan — a key ally in the U.S.-led war on terror — for helping defend against the militant attack on the town of Shkin in Paktika province, where the United States has a base.

“The coalition and our Afghan partners were defending Shkin; we asked the Pakistan military on the other side of the border to assist us and they actually helped us call in fire on the origin of the rocket attacks, which is a very positive thing — it’s the first time that’s ever happened,” Nelson said.

He said the Pakistanis used radios supplied two days earlier by the U.S. military. “It’s very positive cooperation and a good indication that Afghanistan, Pakistan and coalition forces are cooperating effectively to defend Afghanistan,” Nelson said.

He said he had no information on casualties.

While Pakistan is an ally in the terror war and has stationed tens of thousands of troops on its border to hunt for al-Qaida fighters, U.S. and Afghan officials have complained that militants have continued to find sanctuary in Pakistan.

The clashes at Shkin took place opposite Pakistan’s South Waziristan tribal region where the Pakistani military has been pursuing hundreds of foreign al-Qaida-linked militants.