- The Washington Times - Tuesday, June 19, 2007

KANDAHAR, Afghanistan — More than 100 people, including militants, civilians and police, have died in three days of fierce clashes between NATO forces and Taliban fighters in southern Afghanistan, Afghan officials said yesterday.

Some preliminary estimates of the death toll exceeded 200 people, but precise numbers were not immediately available because of the continued fighting in Uruzgan province.

In eastern Afghanistan, U.S.-led coalition jets bombed a compound suspected of housing al Qaeda militants, killing seven boys and several insurgents, officials said.

President Hamid Karzai and other senior Afghan leaders have repeatedly called for foreign troops to do more to prevent civilian casualties.

Mullah Ahmidullah Khan, the head of Uruzgan’s provincial council, said the clashes in the Chora district had killed 60 civilians, 70 suspected Taliban militants and 16 Afghan security officers.

An official close to the Uruzgan governor, who asked not to be identified when talking about preliminary estimates, said up to 75 civilians had been killed or wounded, while more than 100 Taliban and more than 35 police had been killed.

NATO spokeswoman Lt. Col. Maria Carl said there was “definitely a large engagement that has been going on there” for the past three days, but could not confirm casualty figures.

On Sunday in Paktika province, in an operation backed by Afghan troops, NATO warplanes targeted a compound that contained a mosque and a madrassa, or Islamic school, resulting in the death of seven boys, ages 10 to 16.

Paktika Gov. Akram Akhpelwak said usually there is strong coordination between the government and NATO forces, but that he was aware of the missile strike on the madrassa beforehand.

The U.N. Assistance Mission in Afghanistan has sent a team with the Afghan Independent Human Rights Commission to investigate the incident.

In the capital, police said they had detained a suspect in connection with a deadly bus bombing that killed at least 35 persons, most of them police trainers.

The explosion was the fifth suicide attack in Afghanistan in three days, part of a sharp spike in violence across the country.