KANDAHAR, Afghanistan (June 21) - Afghan National Security Forces and ISAF troops have re-established control in Chowreh district of Uruzgan province after days of instability and fighting there caused by a Taliban attempt to take control of the area.
Based on shura meetings with local leaders and their own assessments, ISAF officials now believe there were a number of insurgent and civilian casualties. Exact numbers of dead are impossible to determine, said ISAF officials, as is the cause of death, in many cases.
"We are pleased the district is once again safe for the local population, but saddened that there apparently were civilian deaths and injuries," said Lt. Col. Mike Smith, ISAF spokesman.
Previously, ISAF could confirm only that there were less than ten civilians injured and that there were no known civilian deaths. "After three days of fighting, it seems likely to us now that there were some civilians not only injured but killed," he said.
"Some may have been killed at the hands of the Taliban, some may have been caught in cross-fire and some may have died in airstrikes against enemy positions," said Smith. "We will continue to attempt to determine just what happened but in cases like this it is always difficult."
Afghan national security officials reported that Taliban extremists killed Chowreh citizens, including women and children in an attempt to undermine the local public's resistance to their presence, Smith said.
"No matter the cause, we mourn any loss of innocent life. We are here to help provide safety and security to the people of Afghanistan, so even a single death is cause for sadness," he said.
ISAF officials have said previously that they continue to work to coordinate operations with Afghan officials to minimize the risk to civilians of military operations, but that ISAF forces will always maintain the right of self defense by returning fire against enemy firing positions.
During the fighting, local militia succeeded in helping the government defend the district center, which never fell. Afghan government and ISAF forces now fully control the entire Chowreh area, having recaptured the three remote police checkpoints that briefly came under insurgent control. ISAF leaders have held shuras with local elders since then to discuss ways to further assist them.
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