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|Posted: Thu Jun 16, 2005 3:23 am Post subject: Seven slain at Afghan clinic; Taliban official says Bin Lade
|Seven slain at Afghan clinic; Taliban official says Bin Laden 'fine'
Noor Khan, Associated Press
June 16, 2005
KANDAHAR, AFGHANISTAN -- Suspected Taliban rebels broke into a medical clinic near the Pakistan border and killed a doctor and six of his assistants, while seven gunmen were killed when hundreds of insurgents clashed with Afghan and U.S.-led coalition forces, officials said Wednesday.
The fighting is the latest in a spasm of violence in Afghanistan that has raised fears of instability before crucial legislative elections in September.
The attack on the independently run clinic in Khost Province came late Tuesday, said Almar Gul Mungle, commander of a frontier security force. It was unclear why the medical staff members were targeted, but Mungle suggested that rebels may have thought they worked for the government.
In a second attack, suspected Taliban rebels in southern Kandahar Province shot and killed a tribal elder whose family prominently supported President Hamid Karzai's government, said local deputy police chief Gen. Salim Khan.
Meanwhile, a purported senior commander from Afghanistan's ousted Taliban militia claimed in a television interview broadcast Wednesday that both the radical group's fugitive leader Mullah Muhammad Omar and Al-Qaida chief Osama bin Laden are alive and well.
In the interview on Pakistan's Geo television, a man identified as Taliban military commander Mullah Akhtar Usmani, a former aviation minister and corp commander in southern Kandahar province, said he still receives instructions from Omar.
Asked whether Bin Laden was hiding in parts of Afghanistan still under Taliban control, he refused to specify where the terror mastermind was but insisted, "Thanks be to God he is absolutely fine."
Three and a half years since the hardline Taliban regime was ousted by a U.S.-led military campaign, about 18,500 U.S. troops remain in Afghanistan hunting remnants of the regime and their Al-Qaida allies.
The fighting that left seven rebels dead erupted after about 90 suspected Taliban gunmen attacked a joint Afghan and coalition patrol Tuesday on the border between Kandahar and Uruzgan, two southern provinces, said army commander Gen. Muslim Amid said.
Four Afghan soldiers were wounded in the fighting, which ended with the insurgents fleeing into nearby mountains, carrying their injured, he said. Two rebels were captured.
Troops pursued the rebels into the mountains and were hunting them Wednesday, Amid added.
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