25 Taliban killed, NATO troops escape apparent suicide attack in Afghanistan
KANDAHAR, Afghanistan – U.S.-led soldiers and Afghan forces killed 25 Taliban insurgents in Afghanistan’s volatile south and NATO-led Canadian troops narrowly escaped a suicide bombing Friday near the site of a battle that killed four fellow soldiers a day earlier.About a thousand South Korean Christians began their journey home from the capital, Kabul, under tight government security after being ordered out of Afghanistan amid allegations they were trying to convert Muslims.Acting on a tip from local tribal elders, police in southern Helmand province raided an orchard where Taliban fighters were camping and called in airstrikes, said provincial police chief Ghulam Nabi Malakhai. The U.S.-led coalition said 25 Taliban were killed in the raid Thursday night.NATO took charge of security in the south this week from the coalition amid a barrage of violence that has left seven of its soldiers dead. However, the coalition, which is not under NATO command, has retained responsibility for counterterrorism operations there.In southern Kandahar province, a suicide attacker blew up his car Friday in Maywand district, narrowly missing a nearby NATO patrol that drove away undamaged, officials said.The Canadian soldiers, believing they had been attacked by roadside bombs, kept moving and left the investigation to local authorities, Canadian military spokesman Lt. Mark MacIntyre said.The attack on the Canadian patrol came in the same area where militants killed four Canadian soldiers and a suicide car bomber killed 21 civilians Thursday.In Kabul, President Hamid Karzai condemned Thursday’s bombing at a busy market as a “cowardly attack against our Muslim people,” and expressed sorrow for the deaths of the Canadian soldiers.The lawlessness that has hit the south encroached on Kabul Thursday night, when 12 gunmen attacked a highway checkpoint on the outskirts of the city, police said. Police killed one attacker. Although a series of bomb blasts has recently rattled the city, attacks on security forces are rare.Hundreds of Korean Christians boarded flights after the government ordered them to leave, accusing them of trying to convert Muslims.The group – which had planned to stage a three-day sports and culture festival starting Saturday – denied the allegations. A spokesman for the group, Kang Sung-han, vowed they would return one day in small groups.Over the past week, a number of Muslim clerics and government officials have accused the South Koreans of seeking converts and behaving immorally and demanded they be thrown out of the country.However, on Friday Deputy Interior Minister Abdul Adhy Khalid softened the government’s rhetoric, saying the Koreans were asked to leave because of security concerns.”They are welcome back any time,” Khalid said.A South Korean Embassy official said the Afghan government had made arrangements for about 1,000 Korean Christians to go home.Hundreds were staying in hotels under tight government security until their scheduled departures over the next three days, said the embassy official, Kang Hu-wun.—Associated Press writers Amir Shah and Chris Hawke in Kabul contributed to this report.