KHOST, Afghanistan (Reuters) – Afghan police backed by NATO air strikes killed 14 Taliban insurgents after the militants attacked a small town in eastern Afghanistan, the Interior Ministry said on Tuesday.
The Taliban have overrun a number of isolated small towns in the last two years, briefly taking control of local government buildings and forcing thinly spread Afghan and international forces to mobilize to chase them out.
Taliban insurgents attacked a police headquarters in the district of Sayed Karam in Paktia province overnight. Police returned fire and international troops launched air strikes.
“This incident which lasted until morning and resulted in bombing by international forces killed 14 insurgents and wounded four more with support from national police,” the Interior Ministry said in a statement.
The insurgents were from Pakistan, Chechnya and Uzbekistan, it said.
Afghan officials accuse neighboring Pakistan of providing sanctuary to the Taliban and say many of the militants who cross the porous border to fight the government and international troops in Afghanistan are Pakistani and Arab nationals.
The NATO-led International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) confirmed the incident.
“During the night Afghan National Police started receiving small arms fire in a district centre in western Paktia. An unmanned aerial vehicle identified several militants and close air strikes were called in. Several militants were killed,” said a ISAF spokesman.
In another incident on Monday, unknown gunmen on a motorcycle killed a woman police officer while she was on her way home from work, a provincial official told Reuters.
The woman is believed to be the first woman police officer to be killed in Afghanistan.
Under the Taliban, women were not allowed to work but since U.S.-led and Afghan forces overthrew the Islamist government in 2001, women have slowly returned to the public sphere and now hold senior government positions. There are some 250 women police officers in Afghanistan.
But women have suffered a number of attacks by conservatives who believe women should not hold jobs. Last year two women journalists were killed.
More than two years after the Taliban relaunched their insurgency to overthrow the pro-Western Afghan government and eject foreign troops, the violence shows no signs of abating with neither side able to gain the upper hand.