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U.S. Kills 2 Taliban in Copter Bombing

September 20, 2003

KANDAHAR, Afghanistan (AP) _ U.S. helicopters bombed a tent in southern Afghanistan, killing two Taliban militants including a top commander as well as 10 nomadic tribesmen, a deputy governor in Zabul province said Saturday.

The U.S. military confirmed the attack and said it killed Mullah Mohammed Gul Niazi, a former Taliban commander in the capital Kabul. Deputy governor Mullah Mohammed Umer said Gul Niazi had been leading attacks against U.S.-led forces in the province for the past year.

Umer told The Associated Press by satellite phone that the incident took place Thursday night in the district of Naubahar, 120 miles northeast of Kandahar, though a statement by the U.S. military spoke of an operation on Wednesday.

The Taliban militants took refuge in the tent after seeing the American helicopters, Umer said.

``We only know that Mullah Mohammed Gul Niazi was using a satellite phone when two American helicopters reached there,″ he said. ``Ten innocent nomads were killed because of these Taliban.″

The U.S. statement said it was ``highly confident that only combatant anti-coalition persons were killed or wounded.″

The statement also confirmed that another former Taliban commander was killed in a battle with coalition forces last week.

Afghan officials said last Tuesday that Hafiz Abdul Rahim, a former police chief with the Taliban before the U.S.-led coalition ousted the hardline Islamic militia in late 2001, died Sept. 16 along in a shootout with Afghan soldiers in Kandahar province.

Remnants of Taliban have increased attacks against coalition forces as they battle remnants of the former regime and their al-Qaida allies.

Meanwhile, about 25 miles west of Kandahar, suspected Taliban or al-Qaida gunmen killed a district police chief late Friday, district government head Haji Abdul Ghani said.

The police commander, Haji Fardar Mohammad, was in his vehicle with two bodyguards when it came under fire, Ghani said. His two guards were wounded. The gunmen escaped.

In eastern Afghanistan on Friday, an Afghan security official died while defusing a bomb planted on a narrow dirt road, police officials said.

The security official, whose name was not released, was trying to defuse the bomb in Khost province when it exploded, a local police official, Gul Haider Zedran, told AP by satellite phone.

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