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Coalition Forces Kill 20 Suspected Militants In Helmand --> Afghan policeman patrolling mountains in the southern Helmand River valley (file photo) (AFP) June 21, 2006 -- Afghan National Army General Rahmatullah Raufi said today that coalition forces killed 20 Taliban guerrillas in southern Afghanistan's restive Helmand Province late on June 20.

The official said the clash occurred in Helmand's Musa Qala district.

Southern Afghanistan has in recent weeks seen some of the country's most intense fighting since the U.S.-led attack ousted the Taliban regime nearly five years ago.

More than 900 people have been killed in Afghanistan so far in 2006, including more than 400 in May alone.

The United States in mid-June announced a major operation, dubbed Mountain Thrust, aimed at neo-Taliban fighters.
Helmand Province Governor Comments

U.S. Marines operating in Helmand Province in 2002 (epa)

RULING A RESTIVE LAND: On February 12, RFE/RL Radio Free Afghanistan correspondent Jawaid Wafa spoke briefly with Helmand Province Governor MOHAMMAD DAOUD about the ongoing violence in his restive region on the border with Pakistan.

RFE/RL: Recently, there have been many clashes and attacks by insurgents in Helmand Province. What in your view facilitates these attacks, especially in Helmand?

Mohammad Daoud: This province has a 160-kilometer border with Pakistan's Baluchistan Province. In reality, armed people, armed terrorists, from the other side of the border cross the border into Helmand. They carry out attacks and return back. It is a serious problem in Helmand that within our borders there is neither tribal good will, nor are there are special military or security measures to prevent enemies from crossing back and forth.

RFE/RL: The attacks and clashes have not only been between government forces and insurgents. There have been various clashes in different parts of Helmand between police and purported drug smugglers. How do you explain this?

Daoud: Drug smugglers also use the border for their own purposes. They have opened markets on the border and process opium there. This is a serious problem along our border. We are in touch with our authorities on this problem.

RFE/RL: There are government border police patrol your border. What is their role in preventing illegal crossings?

Daoud: Along this 160-kilometer border, there are car routes, walking routes. We have border police, but unfortunately, either because of their own problems or because of weak administration, they have not been able to stop the crossing.


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