Six civilians collecting poppy harvest in the southern Helmand province were killed and three were wounded as they were caught in a clash between Taliban and NATO and Afghan troops, officials and locals said on Thursday.
Jan. 24, 2008: Afghan men shout anti-US forces slogans during a demonstration in the main city of Ghazni province. US-led soldiers killed nine Afghan policemen, including a district police chief, and a woman in an overnight raid aimed at Taliban fighters, Afghan officials said Thursday. AFP/Mohammad Yaqubi
Photo Gallery of US victims in Afghanistan
The Afghan Victim Memorial Project by Prof. Marc
Haji Muhammad Qasem, a resident and tribal elder from Darwishan area of Garmsir district told Pajhwok Afghan News the peasants and local men hired by them were killed in a fierce battle that erupted Wednesday evening.
The latest battle in Garmsir is part of the operation launched some 10 days ago by Afghan and NATO troops to recapture the district from the Taliban.
He said it was not clear in whose firing exactly the people were killed.
The tribal elder said most of the district was still under control of the Taliban and Afghan and NATO troops could not infilterate well into the insurgnets' stronghold.
Garmsir has been the scene of similar clashes since about a week as government and foreign troops try to retake the district from the Taliban.
Reports say thousands of local residents have fled the area after fighting intensified.
Haji Muhammad Anwar, chief of the Helmand provincial council who comes from Garmsir, said around 10,000 to 15,000 residents have been displaced in the last week. He said many other residents caught in the fighting were facing tough problems due to the continuing fighting.
The provincial council head said most of the district was still in the Taliban's control and that claims by NATO were not true.
A spokesman for the NATO troops in Helmand confirmed that they have confronted a group of the Taliban in Garmsir, but rejected reports of casualties to the farmers.
The local Taliban said they were still in control of the district.
Mullah Raz Muhammad, a Taliban commander in Garmsir told Pajhwok Afghan News they have not retreated from the district at no point. He also accused foreign troops of bombing and firing at civilian targets.