KABUL - At least eight Afghan nomads, including women and children, were killed in a U.S. air strike in Afghanistan that also killed two Taliban guerrillas, Afghan officials said on Saturday.
In a separate incident, Taliban guerrillas killed a district police chief in the southern province of Kandahar, underscoring a revival of violence recently in a country that has seen mostly strife for the past quarter-century.
The civilians died in their beds when a bomb landed on their tent in Naw Bahar district of the southern province of Zabul on Wednesday night, said deputy provincial governor Mohammad Omar.
A U.S. military spokesman said he could not immediately confirm the report.
Mohammad Gul Neyazi, a top commander of the Taliban, and another Taliban guerrilla were also killed during the attack in the remote district near the border with Pakistan, Omar said.
"The figure I have for the civilian death toll is at least eight," Omar told Reuters. "The Taliban commander and his friend were apparently using a satellite phone, the signal of which was detected by American aircraft which then carried out the attack."
It was unclear if the guerrillas had been in the same tent, but the governor of Zabul province, Hafizullah, said on BBC radio that Taliban fighters were known to have taken refuge with nomads in the area in the past.
Major Ralph Marino, a U.S. military spokesman in Afghanistan, said he had no information about the incident. But the U.S. military said on Thursday air strikes by U.S.-led forces had killed 11 Taliban fighters over the previous three days in Zabul and neighboring Kandahar province.
The strikes were part of "Operation Mountain Viper," launched in August in response to the presence of hundreds of Taliban guerrillas and their allies in Uruzgan and Zabul provinces.
TALIBAN HUNT STILL ON
Omar said government troops and soldiers from U.S.-led foreign forces in Afghanistan were hunting Taliban fugitives in several districts of Zabul on Saturday, but did not have details.
A spate of violence, mostly in the southern parts of the country, has killed more than 280 and wounded scores since the start of August, including civilians, Afghan aid workers, police and militiamen, three U.S. soldiers and many Taliban guerrillas.
The Taliban, overthrown by U.S.-led forces in late 2001 for sheltering Osama bin Laden and his al Qaeda fighters, have been involved in most of the incidents -- the bloodiest period since its fall from power.
In Zerai district near the Taliban's former redoubt in Kandahar city, district police chief Sardar Mohammad was killed and two of his bodyguards wounded when a group of guerrillas on motorbikes opened fire on them with assault rifles, said Gul Agha, a military official in Afghanistan's former royal capital.
"We have no doubt that Taliban remnants killed him," he told Reuters.
The raid came a day after three police officials were badly wounded by an improvised bomb in neighboring Helmand province.
At least 12 other civilians died in Afghanistan on Friday in accidents involving the dangerous trade of extracting explosives for sale from leftover war ordinance.
Nine were killed by a blast in a house in the eastern province of Laghman when an electricity surge ignited explosives used for construction blasting, and at least three died in a similar incident near the U.S. military headquarters at Bagram to the north of Kabul.
In another incident in the southeast on Friday, a government soldier was killed and an officer severely wounded when they tried to defuse a rocket aimed at the town of Khost.
Military official Khan Padshah said the old Russian made rocket was thought to have been primed by Taliban guerrillas or allied fighters loyal to renegade warlord Gulbuddin Hekmatyar.
Afghanistan is littered with unexploded ordinance from its quarter-century of war and civil strife and is considered to be perhaps the most heavily mined country in the world.
© Copyright 2003 Reuters Ltd