Insurgents attack Afghan convoys, killing 9

June 18, 2011 - 3:28 AM

KABUL, Afghanistan (AP) — Insurgents attacked three convoys ferrying fuel and supplies to NATO troops stationed in western and eastern Afghanistan, killing nine Afghan security guards and torching at least 15 fuel tankers, officials said Saturday.

The Taliban recently launched its long-awaited spring offensive as the insurgents try to regain territory lost in the fall and winter to the U.S.-led coalition. Unable to match NATO's firepower, the militants instead frequently conduct small-scale strikes — on convoys or NATO patrols — as well as brazen suicide bombings on government targets.

Two of the attacks on the supply convoys took place Saturday in eastern Ghazni province, where a pair of roadside bombs killed four Afghan security guards escorting the trucks to a nearby base for Polish troops, said provincial police chief Mohammed Hussain.

Insurgents also ambushed a NATO fuel convoy late Friday along the border between Herat and Farah provinces in the west, killing five Afghan guards. Seven other guards were wounded in the attack after insurgents opened fire on the convoy, said Abdul Rashied, a local police chief. Insurgents later set fire to 15 fuel tankers.

The vast majority of the fuel for the roughly 132,000 international troops is ferried in by truck from Pakistan before it is distributed to NATO forces across Afghanistan. It takes roughly 100 truckloads of fuel — about 1.5 million gallons (6 million liters) — to keep coalitions forces moving for a single day.

Insurgents frequently target NATO fuel tankers in both Afghanistan and Pakistan, though the coalition said in February that fewer than 1 percent of all supply convoys face militant attack.

Meanwhile, NATO said Saturday its forces killed "several" insurgents in a gunbattle a day earlier in Ghazni, seizing rocket-propelled grenades, AK-47s and body armor. NATO offered no further details, but Hussain, the Ghazni police chief, identified the dead militants as eight Pakistanis.

In the eastern city of Jalalabad, insurgents kidnapped a provincial council member for Logar province and three of his family members. Council member Abdulkhaliq Khairkhowa had been traveling along a main highway near Jalalabad late Friday night to attend a funeral the following day, said Dr. Abduwali Wakil, the chief of Logar's provincial council.

One man inside the car hid under the seats and was left behind by the kidnappers, Wakil said. That man later followed the kidnappers to the Torghar Mountains, a range of high peaks controlled by the Taliban, before returning to inform authorities, Wakil said.

Kidnapping of provincial council officials, who make governmental decisions for the province, remains common as insurgents and the Taliban view them as collaborators with Western forces.

NATO also said Saturday that a coalition service member died in an insurgent attack in southern Afghanistan. So far in June, 31 international soldiers have been killed in Afghanistan, raising the death toll for 2011 to 237.

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Jon Gambrell can be reached at www.twitter.com/jongambrellAP.