7 Afghans dead in ambush on mine clearing workers (Afghanistan)

Seven people were killed Saturday in western Afghanistan in an attack on Afghan employees of an American landmine clearing company. Police believe the Taliban are behind the attack.


Afghan police said the Taliban ambushed a group of mine removers and their armed guards who were working for Ronco Consulting Corp., based in Washington D.C., in a populated area of the western province of Farah. The ambush injured four people.

Mohammad Anwar, spokesman for the Farah police chief, said the ambush occurred while the employees were travelling in two vehicles in a convoy on the highway that leads from Kandahar to the western province of Herat.

Six of the dead worked for Ronco, which provides a range of services, including mine clearance, training of local people and mine awareness education. Anwar said a woman caught in the crossfire between insurgents and the armed guards also was killed.

Of the injured, two were employees and two were women caught in the ambush. All the victims were Afghan.

On Friday, NATO's International Security Assistance Force said more than 1,000 NATO and Afghan soldiers fought with Taliban fighters, using helicopters, armoured vehicles and infantry, in a push to retake a key district in Helmand province. The troops included Canadian soldiers.

ISAF, a coalition of 30,000 troops from 37 countries, said its soldiers were advancing towards the town of Sangin in Helmand.

Canada has more than 2,000 soldiers stationed in Kandahar province as part of ISAF.

The battle was part of Operation Achilles, the latest operation in which NATO is trying to clear Helmand province of Taliban rebels so that repair work can begin on a dam in Kajaki district. The dam would supply southern Afghanistan with electricity.

"Military troops have successfully engaged several Taliban extremist strongholds and discovered a number of large weapon caches," said an ISAF statement Friday.

ISAF said the main force for this operation included:
-Elements of the 2nd Battalion, Royal Canadian Regiment Battlegroup.
-British troops from the 42 Commando Royal Marines Battlegroup.
-Americans from the 1st of the 508th.
-Dutch with the 11th Airmobile Brigade.
-The Estonian Armoured Infantry Company.
-Danish Recce Squadron.

It also included members of the Afghan National Security Forces.

About 4,500 NATO and 1,000 Afghan forces are in and around Helmand as part of Operation Achilles. In the last several months, Taliban and foreign fighters have streamed into the province, according to U.S. and NATO officials.

Von: 07.04.2007 www.cbc.ca

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