Thursday, August 30, 2007

Shah Wali Kot: snapshots of a battle zone

Canadian forces speaking with elders in Shah Wali Kot image uploaded by lafrancevi

The battle in southern Kandahar province's Shah Wali Kot district started after the joint force was ambushed by a large group of insurgents who tried to overrun their position several times, before being strafed by airstrikes.

"Coalition aircraft destroyed the reinforced enemy emplacements and sniper positions as well as two trucks used to reinforce and re-supply the insurgent force,"

Taliban militants kidnapped four Afghan engineers in the southern Kandahar province, the police said Saturday. The engineers, who were building a bridge, were abducted in Shah Wali Kot district in northern Kandahar on Friday afternoon, provincial police chief Sayed Aqa Saqib told Xinhua.

On Monday, Taliban fighters attacked Afghan and U.S.-led coalition troops with rockets and gunfire in the Shah Wali Kot district of Kandahar province, sparking a four-hour battle, a coalition statement said. Fighter aircraft bombed three enemy positions, it said.

While they have some beefs with the tactics of Canadian troops, Afghan villagers in Gumbad denied Monday that they had any involvement in the weekend bombing that killed four soldiers in the area.

The Shah Wali Kot district, of which Gumbad is a part, is routinely a hotbed of rumour and innuendo, a state that went into overdrive following the Saturday morning attack.

Published U.S. reports suggested Canadian troops brought the attack upon themselves by conducting inappropriate searches of homes and mosques, sometimes using dogs - considered unclean animals by Muslims.

The Shah Wali Kot district is considered to be one of the last Taliban strongholds in Kandahar province, but Ges said that may soon end as the patience of the district’s residents grows thin with anti-coalition forces.

“For the most part, the people out here are tired of the Taliban,” said Ges.

“Because there is no government representation out here, the Taliban come out of the hills and take their food, beat on them, harass them, and then leave.”

Establishing security in the district is the first priority, said Ges, but another is to strengthen the positions of the district leadership. Once this is done, reconstruction efforts can begin in the embattled region.

Since then, Taliban militants have indeed displayed a new assertiveness; they have even set up their own roadblocks. It was Talibs manning one such roadblock in the Shah Wali Kot district near Kandahar who stopped International Committee of the Red Cross irrigation engineer Ricardo Munguia, a citizen of El Salvador, and his Afghan co-workers. Acting on Mullah Dadullah's orders after Munguia's captors had used a satellite phone to request instructions as to his fate, the militants shot the engineer. (The murder was tragically ironic since the Talib leading the operation had once had his life saved by ICRC.)

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