- The Washington Times - Saturday, June 3, 2006

KABUL, Afghanistan — U.S. and Afghan troops backed by warplanes recaptured a town from suspected Taliban rebels in heavy fighting as violence across southern Afghanistan left at least 35 militants dead, officials said yesterday.

The Afghan government, meanwhile, announced a shake-up of the country’s top police commanders after the worst anti-foreigner riots in years hit the capital. Kabul’s police chief will be replaced, along with 85 others across the country.

U.S. and Afghan troops retook the southern town of Chori on Friday, killing up to 20 militants, said Gen. Zahir Azimi, the Defense Ministry spokesman.

Hundreds of insurgents had attacked the town in Uruzgan province on Wednesday, moving in when local security forces were forced to flee. While rebels have been increasing attacks in recent weeks, it is unusual for them to successfully control a large chunk of territory for days.

A U.S. military spokesman, Sgt. Chris Miller, said Afghan and U.S. troops suffered no casualties in taking back Chori. He said police had resumed control of the town.

A surge in fighting since mid-May, particularly in southern regions where the Taliban are strongest, has killed more than 400 people, most of them militants.

Violence has also wracked Kabul, with rioters on Monday attacking foreigners after a deadly road accident involving a U.S. military truck.

A spokesman for the Ministry of Interior declined to say whether the police shake-up announced yesterday was linked to the rioting, in which up to 20 people were killed.

Both Afghan investigators and the U.S. military are investigating the cause of the anti-foreigner unrest.

Insurgents are trying to take advantage of the anti-foreigner sentiment. Yesterday, the Arab broadcaster Al Jazeera quoted Gulbuddin Hekmatyar, a renegade former Afghan prime minister wanted by the United States, as threatening new violence against U.S. troops.

“Resistance is not weak. All the Afghan people insist on taking revenge and wish, if you stay for a longer period, to cause you more causalities,” Mr. Hekmatyar said on an audiotape, according to Al Jazeera.

It was not immediately possible to verify the comments.

In other violence reported yesterday:

• Militants attacked a police station Friday in Miana Shien town, Kandahar province, sparking clashes that killed 12 militants and wounded 17 persons, said Dawood Hamadi, the provincial spokesman.

• In neighboring Helmand province, coalition warplanes bombed militants loading munitions from a cave onto a truck Friday, the U.S. military said, adding that it did not know the number of militant deaths. Also in Helmand, U.S. troops killed three militants in a gunbattle Friday, said Maj. Quentin Innis, coalition spokesman.

Afghanistan’s fledgling parliament voted yesterday to adopt a $2 billion budget for the next fiscal year after the government agreed to boost the pay of state workers.

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