September 12, 2008 / 6:51 AM / 11 years ago

U.S. firm ambushed again in Afghan south, 23 dead

KABUL (Reuters) - At least 23 people were killed when Taliban insurgents ambushed a U.S. security firm convoy in southwestern Afghanistan on Friday, provincial officials said, the second attack on the firm in as many days.

Farah provincial police chief Khalilullah Rahmani said 15 of the dead were Taliban militants killed in the fighting that broke out following the ambush.

Rahmani said U.S. Protection and Investigations, a firm involved in escorting supplies for coalition forces, also suffered casualties but he had no details.

“The Taliban militants attacked the convoy with heavy machineguns; four vehicles were set on fire,” said a provincial official who asked not to be named.

He said four Afghan guards and four civilians had been killed in the ambush that took place when the convoy was passing through Bakwa district in Farah province.

Another convoy of the security firm was attacked on Thursday in Kandahar city and two people were killed.

Separately, the U.S military said coalition forces had killed more than 10 militants and detained two during operations in eastern Afghanistan that also targeted the network of veteran Taliban commander Jalaluddin Haqqani.

U.S. forces have focused on Haqqani’s network this week, firing missiles from drones into a house and a religious school founded by him in Pakistan’s tribal region just across the border, killing 23 people, mostly his relatives.

On Thursday, two members of Haqqani’s team were picked up in Afghanistan’s Khost province, including one suspected of coordinating roadside attacks on coalition and Afghan forces, the U.S. military said in a statement

Haqqani, who was backed by the United States during the war against the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan, is considered close to Osama bin Laden.

U.S. forces also targeted a Taliban commander in Kapisa province, northeast of Kabul, and 10 militants were killed in the fighting, the military said.

“Coalition forces were engaged with small-arms fire from multiple groups of armed militants as they entered a compound. The force returned fire, killing the militants,” the statement said.

Violence has hit its worst level in Afghanistan since the Taliban’s overthrow in 2001. More than 2,700 people including some 1,100 civilians have been killed so far this year, aid agencies say.

Reporting by Hamid Shalizi; writing by Sanjeev Miglani; editing by Roger Crabb

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