- The Washington Times - Thursday, May 18, 2006

1:27 p.m.

KANDAHAR, Afghanistan — Some of the fiercest violence since the Taliban’s ouster in 2001 has erupted across southern Afghanistan, with militants battling U.S. and Canadian forces, detonating car bombs and attacking a small village. Up to 105 persons were killed, officials said yesterday.

Much of the violence occurred in the southern provinces of Helmand and Kandahar, where thousands of extra NATO troops are scheduled to deploy this summer to counter an increasing number of attacks from a stubborn insurgency.

The Taliban death toll from fighting Wednesday night and today ranged up to 85, U.S. and Afghan officials said. Also, 15 Afghan police officers, one American civilian, a Canadian soldier and an Afghan civilian were killed in the attacks.

The Canadian was the first female soldier from her nation to die in combat.

Taliban rebels are made up of ethnic Pashtuns, the majority in Afghanistan’s southern and eastern regions near the Pakistani border. Insurgent attacks have been concentrated there, though the violence rarely has been as fierce as in the past 24 hours.

An assault by hundreds of enemy fighters on a small southern town was one of the largest militant attacks since 2001 and marked an escalation in the campaign by supporters of the former Taliban regime to challenge the U.S.-backed government of President Hamid Karzai.

Late yesterday, militants attacked a police and government headquarters in Musa Qala in Helmand province, sparking eight hours of clashes with security forces. The bodies of about 40 Taliban militants were recovered, said deputy Gov. Amir Mohammed Akhunzada.

Mr. Akhunzada said 13 police were killed and six wounded in the fight, some 280 miles southwest of Kabul.

The assault was countered by Afghan police reinforcements, who eventually forced the militants to flee, said British military spokesman Capt. Drew Gibson.

In neighboring Kandahar province, the U.S.-led coalition said up to 27 Taliban militants were killed during an operation yesterday. The military said there were seven confirmed deaths, and another one to 20 militants may have been killed in an airstrike near the village of Azizi.

In a separate battle in Kandahar province, a Canadian soldier and about 18 Taliban militants were killed late yesterday, said Maj. Scott Lundy, a Canadian military spokesman.

Canadian soldiers were supporting Afghan forces on a mission to oust Taliban fighters in Panjwayi district, about 20 miles west of Kandahar City, when they were attacked with rocket-propelled grenades and small-arms fire, Maj. Lundy said.

Three Afghan soldiers were wounded, and about 35 militants were detained, he said.

A female Canadian soldier, Capt. Nichola Goddard, was killed, he said. Capt. Goddard, 26, of Calgary, Alberta, was married with no children.

Although Canadian women lost their lives in action in both world wars, Capt. Goddard was the first to do so in a combat role.

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