Monday, July 16, 2007

Canadian, Afghan Forces Find Taliban Weapons Cache

A bloody trail led Canadian troops to a cache of weapons in a village in southern Afghanistan yesterday morning after an intense firefight left 15 to 20 Taliban fighters dead. The find came after Canadian and Afghan soldiers battled the Taliban for more than an hour as day broke in the Zhari region, about 40 kilometres west of Kandahar City. After soldiers were engaged by Taliban fire in Haji Ebrahim village around 5 a.m., firefights continued sporadically, with insurgents using rocket-propelled grenades and mortars. Eight 225-kilogram bombs were dropped on the insurgents, said Maj. Dave Quick, the officer leading the operation. Insurgent firing continued from huts and behind walled compounds. "It was another disruptive operation to limit Taliban influence on an Afghan army checkpoint on Highway 1," Quick told Reuters, referring to the main road that loops around southern Afghanistan.Troops captured an anti-tank weapon capable of piercing their armoured vehicles. They also found assault rifles, grenades and armour-piercing shells in and around a compound. The soldiers made the discovery when they followed a bloody trail through the village to the weapons, a military spokesperson reported. Neither the Canadian nor Afghan troops suffered any injuries and there were no civilian casualties. Afghan officials have bemoaned the increased reliance by coalition troops on air strikes, saying they are responsible for a growing number of civilian casualties. The last three Canadian-Afghan operations have drawn on air support with no civilian casualties.