17 ultras, cleric die in Afghan clashes

Associated Press

Kabul, July 13:

Fighting between rebels and Afghan and American forces left 17 insurgents dead, while suspected Taliban gunmen killed a senior pro-government Muslim cleric today, officials said.

The 17 were killed in fighting on Monday and Tuesday in the Daychopan district of Zabul province, a US military statement said.

Six other insurgents were captured in the clashes, the statement said.

“Afghan army and police, operating in concert with coalition forces, are experiencing numerous tactical successes in the northern districts of Zabul province,” said US Army Maj Douglas Vincent, the executive officer of the 503rd Infantry Regiment’s 2nd Battalion.

The cleric, Saleh Mohammed, was killed in neighbouring Helmand province after leaving his home in Sasain village and walking to his mosque, said provincial government spokesman Mohammed Wali.

Saleh Mohammed was the top cleric in Helmand and a member of the national Ulema Council.

His death came a week after rebels killed a senior cleric and his wife in eastern Paktika province.