Skip to comments.Taliban use 'escape route' amid Canadian-led siege
Posted on 09/06/2006 11:54:27 AM PDT by Clive
PANJWAII, Afghanistan (CP) - Insurgents have been using an unguarded route to slip through the Canadian-led siege of this Taliban stronghold and join the fight, a key local leader and ally of international forces said Wednesday.
While NATO has claimed 700 Taliban are trapped in the area, locals say there is an easy escape route to the west that has gone unguarded by Canadian and Afghan troops and allowed insurgents to resupply.
Far from fleeing, an unknown number of insurgents are joining the battle against Canadian troops and their allies, according to Haji Kheerdin, the Zhari District elder.
"One side is open," Kheerdin said in an interview. "And these fighters can easily move in and out of this place."
Kheerdin said many of the new arrivals are foreign fighters from Pakistan, Chechnya and the Middle East, citing evidence collected from the interrogation of a Pakistani detainee.
Alliance officials had warned Taliban of their impending attack in the hope many would throw down their arms and flee.
Instead, insurgents seem determined to inflict casualties on Canadian troops, setting up a steady stream of ambushes, snipings, mortar and rocket attacks. Five Canadians have died and dozens have been injured since the start of the operation on Saturday, including one death in an accidental strafing by U.S. warplanes.
Fourteen British soldiers died when their surveillance aircraft crashed. NATO claims 250 militants have died in the fighting, a figure fiercely disputed by the Taliban.
Sketchy details about the civilian toll of the ongoing battle began to emerge Wednesday from the besieged villages of Panjwaii.
A prominent Afghan district leader said 14 civilians were killed along with seven insurgents in the bombing runs that opened the offensive on the weekend as Taliban gathered near three targeted homes. The dead included an old man and several women and children, the official said.
Kheerdin, another area elder, said only one woman and two children died in the bombings.
NATO officials issued a statement Wednesday saying they have launched an investigation but added that soldiers on the ground were taking fire from the three compounds when they called in the air strike at 4 p.m. Sunday.
The soldiers believed no civilians were in the buildings, according to the statement.
"The fact that the insurgents were using the compounds as defensive positions, and that civilians had already been advised to leave the area through media, leaflet drops and Shuras, makes it less likely that there were civilians involved," the statement said.
Musafar, a tribal elder from the Alakozai tribe, said fighting has displaced about 1,500 Afghan families. Witnesses said between 100 and 150 of the families are camped in roadside tents after fleeing their homes here.
Musafar said those living in tents were in "big trouble" and needed food, drinking water and medicine.
Mohammed Nadir Farhad, a spokesman in Kabul for the UN High Commissioner for Refugees, said the agency was aware that some Afghans had been displaced, but it didn't know how many and was unable to reach them because of the security situation.
One of the biggest attacks ever organized under the NATO banner, Operation Medusa is intended to dislodge Taliban from the stronghold where they have launched many attacks against Canadian, Afghan and international forces.
The fifth day of the battle settled into siege Wednesday, with NATO forces continuing their bombardment. Small foot patrols were sent out and armoured vehicle crews maintained frontline positions.
The Taliban were also quiet one day after engaging in a string of ambushes and battles on Tuesday, including a 100-member group that fought for three hours with U.S. Special Forces, according to a NATO official.
In Kabul, NATO Secretary General Jaap de Hoop Scheffer told a news conference that Taliban rebels believe they "can win."
"It is clear that some of the terrorists, the spoilers think they can win in the south," Scheffer told reporters.
"They are wrong. Because they cannot win, they will not win," the NATO chief said.
If terrorists are allowed to regroup, de Hoop Scheffer added, the "consequences will be felt not only in Afghanistan but in the NATO nations and other nations as well."
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Interesting, but doesn't that mean we can kill more of them?
So the Taliban are funneling more troops in? Good for them. They're entering a killing ground.
Presumably that route will now be guarded!
"Fourteen British soldiers died when their surveillance aircraft crashed."
This makes sense, only if they were flying a blimp.
Its like a roach motel. :)
LOL! I'll remember that one!
You and I might expect so, but this type of error seems to repeat itself in this war.
Time for an Ark Light.
To assume: I assume that goes for you too!!