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US, Afghan troops launch joint operation against Taliban remnants

PLA Daily 2004-01-08

KABUL, Jan. 7 (Xinhuanet) -- US forces and Afghan government troops launched a joint mop-up operation on Wednesday against Taliban remnants in a mountainous area near the southern city of Kandahar, local sources said.

The operation in Spin Boldak district, about 60 kilometers south of Kandahar, was aimed at killing or capturing fugitive Taliban commander Mullah Akhter Mohammad, believed to be behind a series of recent attacks in the city, according to an Afghan official in Kandahar.

The move was carried out just one day after 17 civilians, mostly school children, were killed in a bomb attack on Tuesday by suspected Taliban fighters in Kandahar, a former stronghold of the ousted regime.

Meanwhile, a Taliban spokesman on Wednesday claimed the responsibility for the midday bomb explosion on a Kandahar street, saying the attack was originally targeted at US soldiers deployed in the city but missed the target.

Spin Boldak, a volatile border town between Afghanistan and Pakistan, is believed to be a safe haven for many holdout Taliban fighters, who have been hiding in nearby mountain caves since the regime's collapse two years ago.

However, Bryan Hilferty, US military spokesman in Afghanistan, refused to comment on the reported operation near the southern Afghan border.

"I can not comment on the issue," he told Xinhua through an interpreter, but adding that the US-led coalition forces were ready to conduct necessary operations against terrorists and rebels in any part of Afghanistan.

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