US helos kill more than 30 Taliban fighters in Kunar
Map of attacks in Afghanistan. Kunar province is the second-most violent in Afghanistan. Map from ANSO.
US helicopters smashed a large Taliban unit operating in the northeastern Afghan border province of Kunar today.
A US air weapons team, which is typically made up of Apache attack helicopters, opened fire on "a large number of armed insurgents" after spotting them operating in the open in the Ghaziabad district, the International Security Assistance Force stated in a press release.
The air weapons team initially engaged a group of Taliban fighters while patrolling the district, killing several. "After the initial firing, a large number of armed individuals emerged from a nearby building and were subsequently targeted and killed by the air weapons team," ISAF stated.
The initial attack sparked a four-hour-long battle with Taliban fighters in the area. ISAF estimated that more than 30 insurgents were killed during the engagement, while no civilians were reported to have been killed.
ISAF also said that several more Taliban fighters were killed in the Bar Kunar district of Kunar province after insurgents attacked an outpost with small-arms fire and rocket-propelled grenades.
Kunar is the second-most violent province in Afghanistan, according to data released by the Afghanistan NGO Safety Office. In 2010, there were 1,467 attacks in Kunar, compared to 1,540 recorded attacks in Ghazni, 1,387 attacks in Helmand, and 1,162 attacks in Kandahar.
Since the pullout of US and Afghan troops from remote outposts that began in late 2009, several districts in Kunar and the neighboring province of Nuristan have been contested. Al Qaeda, the Pakistani Taliban, and other allied terror groups are known to have moved into Kunar and Nuristan due to the security vacuum, and have expanded attacks throughout the region.
Kunar province is a known sanctuary for al Qaeda and allied terror groups. The presence of al Qaeda cells has been detected in the districts of Pech, Shaikal Shate, Sarkani, Dangam, Asmar, Asadabad, Shigal, and Marawana; or eight of Kunar's 15 districts, according to an investigation by The Long War Journal.
A senior al Qaeda commander named Qari Zia Rahman operates in Kunar and Nuristan, and commands military forces on both sides of the Afghan-Pakistani border. Qari Zia recently kidnapped 21 Afghan tribal leaders and threatened to kill them if members of their families and tribes continued to cooperate with the Afghan government and Coalition forces. Six tribal leaders have since been freed.
Qari Zia has also established suicide training camps for women, and has used female suicide bombers on both sides of the border. Over the past year, Qari Zai has been the target of several ISAF and Afghan special operations raids.
For more information on Qari Zia Rahman, see LWJ reports, Al Qaeda leader kidnaps 21 Afghan tribal leaders in Kunar, and US hunts wanted Taliban and al Qaeda commander in Kunar.