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Afghanistan: Forces Close to Eliminating Taliban Cell in South

VOA News May 08, 2011

Afghan officials said Sunday government troops backed by NATO forces were close to eliminating a cell of Taliban fighters who launched attacks on government buildings in the southern city of Kandahar a day earlier.

The officials said Afghan soldiers surrounded several insurgents holed up in a building near the local headquarters of Afghanistan's intelligence agency and that almost all of the buildings attacked by the Taliban had been cleared.

At least 20 Taliban fighters were killed in Saturday's assault, including eight suicide bombers who blew themselves up. The assailants killed four people and wounded more than 40 others. Four insurgents were captured.

Authorities say most of the assailants were among hundreds who escaped from the city's main Sarposa prison last month through a tunnel dug by fighters on the outside.

Also Sunday, U.S. Army General David Petraeus, leading military operations in Afghanistan said in an interview with the Associated Press news agency that the killing of Osama bin Laden may weaken al-Qaida's influence on the Afghan Taliban.

But Petraeus also warned that Afghanistan is still a potential refuge for international terror groups like al-Qaida. He stressed that bin Laden's death did not spell the end of the NATO battle in Afghanistan.

In another development, the Afghan government has accused the Taliban of recruiting Pakistani children to carry out suicide bombings in Afghanistan. Afghan authorities say they recently detained four Pakistani boys who crossed into Afghanistan and confessed to being trained in suicide attacks by Taliban militants.

The Taliban denied the allegation and accused the Afghan security forces of recruiting underage boys into their ranks.

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