June 27, 2005

U.S. troops shoot gun-wielding man in Afghanistan

KABUL (Reuters) - U.S. troops shot dead a suspected Islamicmilitant on a motorcycle who sped up to a checkpoint insouthern Afghanistan at the weekend and drew an automaticrifle, the U.S. military said on Monday.

The shooting happened on Sunday east of Qalat, the capitalof Zabul province, a military statement said.

"The man approached the checkpoint on a motorcycle at ahigh rate of speed and ignored verbal warnings to stop," itsaid. "As he drew closer he brandished an AK-47 assault rifle.Coalition forces opened fire, killing him."

The man was found to be wearing an ammunition vest withadditional AK-47 rounds, the statement said.

U.S. military spokesman Lieutenant-Colonel Jerry O'Harasaid the unidentified man was suspected of being an Islamicmilitant involved in attacks on U.S.-led forces.

O'Hara said he could not say whether the man was attemptinga suicide attack, but checkpoints set up by the U.S.-led forcein Afghanistan were highly visible.

The shooting came after the government reported that 178Taliban guerrillas had been killed in a U.S.-backed offensivelast week that ended with many militants fleeing toward thePakistani border.

O'Hara said the latest U.S. figure for militants killed inthe operation was 75, with another 22 detained, but he addedthat Afghan government figures could be more accurate.

On Sunday, Mullah Dadullah, one of two top Talibancommanders the government said had been surrounded in lastweek's fighting, telephoned Reuters to say that only seven oreight guerrillas had been killed, including one commander,Mullah Mohammad Easa.

U.S. and Afghan forces have reported killing nearly 400insurgents since March as they move to prevent guerrillaefforts to derail Sept. 18 parliamentary elections.

U.S.-led forces ousted the Taliban government after itrefused to hand over Osama bin Laden, mastermind of the Sept.11 attacks on the United States, but 3- years on, they havebeen unable to subdue the insurgency or catch bin Laden.