NATO attacks Taliban fighters just north of Kabul; kidnapped Italian returns home
KABUL, Afghanistan – NATO forces struck a suspected insurgent compound in rare violence near Kabul and battles continued Saturday in the area, NATO said, while an Italian journalist held captive for weeks returned home, saying he had longed for his family and nation.NATO troops backed by warplanes launched the raid Friday north of Kabul, hitting a compound with eight to 10 suspected Taliban fighters inside, said Maj. Luke Knittig, a NATO spokesman. Most of the recent fighting in Afghanistan has been concentrated in the country’s south and east, close to the border with Pakistan.Knittig said he did not know how many insurgents were killed in ongoing fighting in the Tagab Valley, some 40 miles northeast of Kabul. The operation “is going to address known areas where the Taliban, we suspect, are seeking safe haven,” he said. “If that’s close to Kabul, then so be it.”Militants have been stepping up attacks the last several months around Afghanistan, which has seen its deadliest period of violence since the Taliban regime was ousted in late 2001 for hosting Osama bin Laden.Amid the increased violence, the Italian photographer, Gabriele Torsello, was kidnapped Oct. 12 while traveling by bus from Lashkar Gah, the capital of Helmand province in southern Afghanistan, to neighboring Kandahar, said Ettore Francesco Sequi, Italy’s ambassador to Afghanistan. His captors left him on the side of a road Friday.”I experienced total isolation, I created a barrier and thought only of Italy and my family,” Torsello said. “Now I want to go home and hug my son, whom I haven’t seen in six months.”The photographer, wearing traditional Afghan dress and sporting a beard when he left the plane, was questioned by Italian prosecutors and anti-terrorism investigators before heading to his family’s home in southern Italy, Italian TV and news agencies reported.Torsello said he did not know who was responsible for his kidnapping.”At this time, I have other things on my mind,” he added.A NATO airstrike in Helmand province on Thursday killed nine militants and wounded 30, the Defense Ministry said. The airstrike came after a rocket attack on an Afghan army base, it said. The statement did not explain how officials counted the dead or wounded, nor did it specify where in Helmand province the airstrike hit.Taliban fighters on Friday attacked a supply convoy heading to a NATO base in Khost province, killing two Pakistani drivers and wounding an Afghan driver, said Gen. Anan Roufi, Paktia’s provincial police chief. The attackers opened fire on the trucks in a mountainous area between Paktia and Khost provinces.Militants also attacked an Afghan army patrol in the eastern province of Laghman on Thursday, killing one solider and injuring three, the Defense Ministry said.In Helmand province, meanwhile, 10 schools that have been closed the last 10 months for security reasons reopened Saturday, said Siafulmaluk Noori, the provincial education director. The schools were able to reopen after tribal elders said they would help protect them, he said.More than 160 schools have been attacked around Afghanistan this year, up from 146 during all of last year.Most have been nighttime arson attacks that hurt no one – a tactic aimed at undermining the reach of President Hamid Karzai’s government, which reversed the fundamentalist Taliban’s ban on girls’ education. Between 5 million and 6 million children now attend school in Afghanistan, including some 2 million girls.