Afghan Government Says 1,603 Guerrillas Killed in Battle
ISLAMABAD, Pakistan (AP) _ Afghanistan’s Marxist government said its troops killed 1,603 guerrillas in a battle to reopen the road leading to the rebel-besieged city of Khost, Radio Kabul said Monday.
Insurgents denied the report and said up to 1,500 Soviet paratroopers who landed in Khost four days ago were trapped there, along with 20,000 Afghan troops.
Anti-Marxist, Islamic rebels have held control for nearly a decade of the sole ground route between Khost, near the border with Pakistan, and the provincial capital of Gardez.
″The security of the Gardez-Khost highway has now been ensured,″ Radio Kabul said in a broadcast monitored in Islamabad.
The state-run radio said opening of the 72-mile road was achieved ″as a result of crushing blows by the country’s brave armed forces.″
It said seven Afghan soldiers, including an officer, were killed in the battle and 26 were wounded. It did not say when the operation began or provide details about the situation in Khost, 75 miles east of the capital of Kabul.
Guerrilla official Abdul Rahim denied the radio report, saying the guerrillas were more organized and resisting well.
He said in an interview in Islamabad that heavy fighting also was raging in Sata Kandao to the north and in Marijan Dukan to the south.
Abdul Rahim said the Soviet claim last week of having advanced 25 miles toward Khost was partly true, but that the Soviets still were ″busy trying to cross a path″ where the guerrillas had laid anti-tank mines.
The war in Afghanistan is closed to Western reporters and observers, making it impossible to verify independently any rival claims about the fighting.
The radio said Afghan troops seized many weapons from guerrillas, including rockets, anti-aircraft missiles, mortars and shells, during the battle to reopen Khost.
On Sunday, Afghan Lt. Gen. Mohammad Nabi Azimi said 1,500 guerrillas in the Khost region were killed, wounded, taken prisoner or fled during recent fighting, according to the Soviet news agency Tass.
″Among those killed there is at least once American adviser,″ Azimi was quoted as telling a news conference in Kabul on Sunday, the eighth anniversary of Soviet military interventiuon in Afghanistan.
The United States supports rebels fighting the pro-Soviet Afghan government by providing Stinger missiles and other material aid, but has not reported sending military advisers.
Guerrilla leaders denied the Tass report.
In Washington, the State Department deputy spokeswoman, Phyllis Oakley, said there are no U.S. advisers in Afghanistan.
She said a travel advisory urging Americans not to visit Afghanistan remains in effect.
Radio Kabul said nine Afghans, including seven children, were killed Sunday and 26 injured when ″elements of extremist groups″ - meaning guerrillas - fired mortars at residential areas in the northwestern province of Herat.
It quoted the minister of tribes and nationalities, Solayman Laeq, as saying Sunday night that guerrillas had killed tens of thousands of Afghans with the financial, military and organizational help of ″reactionary and imperialist countries.″ He did give a time period for these killings.
Laeq said the 115,000 Soviet troops in Afghanistan would withdraw ″provided the foreign interference in our country ends.″