Taliban chief captured in Afghan battle

Afghan and international troops captured a Taliban district chief in a four-hour gun battle in the southern province of Helmand, Nato said today.

Nato said the Taliban leader was captured after a joint Afghan-international force surrounded a compound on Wednesday night in the remote Baghran district in the northern part of Helmand.

Fighters inside the compound fired rocket-propelled grenades and machine guns before troops called in a precision air strike, the Nato statement said.

There were no casualties among civilians, Afghan troops or international service members, the alliance said, but an undisclosed number of Taliban were killed or wounded. The wounded included the Taliban district chief for Now Zad, a former insurgent stronghold to the south where US marines have reported progress in winning over the population after a major offensive last summer.

The joint force seized dozens of automatic weapons, grenade launchers and 20lb of opium, the Nato statement said.

In northern Afghanistan, four rockets slammed into a base housing about 120 South Korean construction and security personnel in Parwan province, the South Korean foreign ministry said. No casualties were reported.

In Seoul, foreign ministry spokesman Kim Young-sun said no group claimed responsibility for the attack, which occurred a day before the reconstruction team planned to officially launch its mission.

In 2007, South Korea withdrew troops from Afghanistan after a hostage stand-off in which the Taliban killed two South Koreans after demanding that Seoul immediately withdraw its forces.

Elsewhere, three Afghans were killed and another wounded by a roadside bomb today near a US outpost in the Kunar province of eastern Afghanistan, a US statement said.

The attacks occurred as US General David Petraeus, widely credited with turning around the war in Iraq, prepared to assume command of the troubled US and Nato force in Afghanistan. His predecessor, General Stanley McChrystal, was fired last week over critical remarks made by him and his staff about Obama administration officials in Rolling Stone magazine.

Gen Petraeus was unanimously confirmed by the US Senate on Wednesday and flew immediately to Belgium where he briefed Nato officials today.

Violence is on the rise in Afghanistan, where June was the deadliest month of the war for the Nato-led force with at least 102 deaths among international service members.

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