Islamic Groups Battle in Afghanistan

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KABUL - At least 50 gunmen have been killed in fierce fire fights between the Taliban and other Islamic groups in northeastern Afghanistan.

Heavy machine gun fire and rocket-propelled grenades could be heard throughout the area on Sunday morning.

According to local police, some 35 Hezb-e-Islami and 15 Taliban gunmen have been killed so far.

As of midday Sunday, police had not entered the five or six villages where the gun battles are taking place, but are standing by with mobile first aid units to help the wounded.

"We don't know yet about casualties among civilians or damage to civilian houses," provincial Governor Mohammad Akbar Barakzai said.

Police are not yet sure what sparked the fighting, which began Saturday morning, continued late into the night and started up again on Sunday morning.

In a separate development, Afghan President Hamid Karzai and U.S. Gen. Stanley McChrystal met with 300 elders at a mosque in Marjah on Sunday.

The focus of the meeting was to hear complaints on the recent offensive by NATO and Afghan troops to wrest control of the town from the Taliban.

Residents said they objected to international troops conducting house searches and only Afghan forces or local policemen should be permitted to search their homes. They also spoke about civilian deaths during the offensive.

The city's elders said they're fed up with the war and with the government's inability to provide basic services, and they want schools and health clinics built in Marjah.


Source: The Associated Press

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