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04.06.2006 International

Heavy Taliban battle losses claimed

By Agencies
Heavy Taliban battle losses claimed

Fierce fighting across southern Afghanistan has left up to 32 suspected insurgents dead, while the Karzai government has announced a sweeping shake-up of the top ranks of the police force.

On Friday, US-led multinational force and Afghan soldiers recaptured a district of the central southern province of Uruzgan that had fallen under Taliban control for the past few days, Afghan officials said.

"Fifteen bodies of the enemies of Afghanistan lie in the battle field and up to 20 of them have been killed. The operation is still going on against the enemies who are on the run," Zahir Azimi, an Afghan defence ministry spokesman, said in a statement on Saturday.

A multinational force spokesman said the operation had involved air strikes. He could not comment on Taliban casualties, but said there were none on the US and Afghan side.

After the Taliban took the district, they said they had killed over a dozen police and had taken up to 40 as hostages. Twenty were later released.

Separately, 12 Taliban fighters were killed in an attack on a police station in the neighbouring Kandahar province on Friday, said Dawud Ahmadi, a spokesman for the provincial governor.

In other news, an Afghan working for Bangladesh Rural Advancement Committee, an aid group, was shot dead in Baghlan province in the north, while suspected Taliban killed Haji Mursalen, an influential tribal chief, in a mosque in Kunar province in the east.

Police cull

Also on Saturday, the government of Hamid Karzai announced that the Kabul police chief, General Abdul Jamil Junbish, would be among 85 police generals being replaced nationwide.

A former highway police chief, General Amanullah Ghazar, has been picked to get his job, a government spokesman said.

Police in the capital have been criticised for taking hours to bring last Monday's anti-foreigner riot under control, giving protesters time to ransack the offices of international organisations, steal vehicles, break the windows of a new hotel, and reach the gates of the Afghan parliament and the US embassy.

At least seven people were killed in the riot.

Kabul has since been subject to a night-time curfew.