By John E. Carey
August 4, 2007
Fox news is reporting Saturday afternoon that NATO air strikes in the tribal areas of Afghanistan have killed at least two key Taliban leaders.
The airstrikes targeted two Taliban commanders during a meeting in a remote area of Baghran district in Helmand province on Thursday, the coalition said in a statement.
“During a sizable meeting of senior Taliban commanders, coalition forces employed precision-guided munitions on their location after ensuring there were no innocent Afghans in the surrounding area,” it said.
The statement gave no details of casualties.
In apparent reference to the same incident, Mohammad Hussein, the provincial police chief, said that several Taliban and civilians were killed in an airstrike in the Shah Ibrahim area of Baghran district on Thursday.
Taliban militants were hanging two local people accused of spying for the government. Other villagers had come out to watch when the bombs fell, he said.
He said 20 wounded people were brought to the hospital in Helmand’s capital of Lashkar Gah.
Although confirmation has not been made, some news sources have said that the Taliban leaders were the men responsible for taking hostage Korean missionaries.
“All pressures need to be applied to the Taliban to get them to release these hostages,” Richard Boucher, assistant secretary of state for South and Central Asia, said August 2. “The goal is to get these people released unharmed, to get them released peacefully and safely.”
Boucher spoke ahead of a weekend visit by Afghan President Hamid Karzai, who will meet with President George W. Bush at Camp David. In the hostage case, Boucher noted cooperation between the governments of the United States, Afghanistan and South Korea.
He declined to elaborate on what pressures or efforts were being used or considered but said they included the option of military force.
“There are things that we say, things that others say, things that are done and said within Afghan society as well as potential military pressures,” Boucher said.
Meanwhile, AFP reported that fresh violence left 23 people, including four soldiers, dead Saturday in an escalation of the bloody unrest that has rocked Pakistan over the past month.
President Gen. Pervez Musharraf has sworn he will remain Pakistan’s leader despite the violent opposition. But Musharraf did meet with former Pakistani President Benazir Bhutto with the possibility that the two would reach an agreement on a coalition government.
Also on Saturday one of Pakistan’s top opposition leaders was released to the raucous cheers of supporters Saturday after four years in prison and immediately vowed to resume his campaign against President Gen. Pervez Musharraf.
Javed Hashmi, the acting president of the party of exiled former Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif, left prison a day after the Supreme Court granted him bail in his 23-year sentence on charges of reason and inciting an army mutiny against Musharraf.
Pakistan criticized U.S. presidential candidate Barack Obama on Friday for saying that, if elected, he might order unilateral military strikes against terrorists hiding in this Islamic country.
Top Pakistan officials said Obama’s comment was irresponsible and likely made for political gain in the race for the Democratic nomination.
“It’s a very irresponsible statement, that’s all I can say,” Pakistan’s Foreign Minister Khusheed Kasuri told AP Television News. “As the election campaign in America is heating up we would not like American candidates to fight their elections and contest elections at our expense.”
Also Friday, a senior Pakistani official condemned another presidential hopeful, Colorado Republican Tom Tancredo, for saying the best way he could think of to deter a nuclear terrorist attack on the U.S. would be to threaten to retaliate by bombing the holiest Islamic sites of Mecca and Medina.