Insurgent ambush kills 10 soldiers, policemen in western Afghanistan

KABUL - Taliban insurgents killed 10 members of the Afghan security forces in an ambush in western Herat province, police and government officials said Tuesday.

Muhiudin Noori, a spokesman for the provincial governor, said that soldiers and police were searching late Monday for a group of insurgents who had earlier set up a roadblock where they were stopping and seizing passing vehicles.

In the ensuing firefight, five policemen including the district commander and five soldiers died, Noori said. There were no insurgent casualties, but police later arrested 25 suspects found in the area, he said.

The casualties were the heaviest sustained by the Afghan security forces in a single incident this year in western Afghanistan — an area where the insurgents have been less active than in their strongholds in the east and west of the country.

In recent months, Taliban guerrillas have been switching tactics and increasingly targeting Afghan security forces as the international coalition continues its drawdown toward a planned withdrawal of all combat troops in 2014.

Meanwhile, President Hamid Karzai condemned "in the strongest possible terms" a NATO raid on Sunday in Logar province in which he said four children were killed.

A presidential statement said coalition troops carried out the operation in Baraki Barak district in an effort to apprehend two armed militants. But this resulted in the deaths of the four children who were tending to their animals in the same area, it said.

Din Mohammad Darwesh, spokesman for the provincial governor, said the victims were between 10 and 13 years old.

On Sunday, NATO said it had conducted a precision airstrike in Baraki Barak district which killed three insurgents. "No other individuals were reported nearby at the time of the strike," a coalition statement said.

In recent months, Karzai has criticized the international military coalition for killing civilians, for not going after terrorist safe havens in neighbouring Pakistan, and for not providing the Afghan armed forces with all the weapons they need.

The criticisms drew an angry response from U.S. Defence Secretary Leon Panetta, who earlier this month said the Afghan leader should occasionally say thank you to allied forces who are fighting and dying there, rather than criticizing them.


Slobodan Lekic in Kabul contributed to this report.