Afghan police kill Taliban commander

Police killed a suspected Taliban commander and another insurgent in a three-hour gunbattle in southern Afghanistan, while three Dutch troops were injured when their helicopter made an emergency landing on a mountain, officials said Tuesday. Meanwhile, two Afghans were killed and three were wounded when an old mine exploded near a runway at Kabul airport, Interior Ministry spokesman Yousuf Stanekzai said.

The Taliban commander killed in the battle with police was Mullah Kabir, the rebel chief in Helmand province, said Ghulam Muhiddin, a top local official. Fighting started late Monday after insurgents ambushed a police convoy. Twelve other militants were arrested, he added.

Helmand has been the scene of a series of fierce battles with police in recent weeks that have left several officers dead.

The area, like other southern and eastern parts of Afghanistan, has seen a dramatic increase in rebel violence since January, which has killed almost 1,500 people, the most in any one year since U.S.-led forces ousted the fundamentalists from power in late 2001.

The twin-rotor Chinook chopper that made an emergency landing was flying from the northern city of Mazar-e-Sharif city to Kabul on Monday when the incident occurred, a NATO-led peacekeeping force said in a statement.

It was not immediately clear what caused the aircraft to make an emergency landing, but "it is unlikely to have been the result of any hostile action," it said. Seventeen Dutch troops were onboard at the time.

The injured were evacuated to Bagram, the headquarters of the U.S.-led coalition in Afghanistan. Two have already been released from hospital, the AP reports.

The Dutch defense ministry launched an inquiry into the emergency landing, the statement said.

The Netherlands has 1,170 troops in Afghanistan as part of the 12,000-strong NATO-led peacekeeping force, which is responsible for security in Kabul as well as northern and western parts of the country. The force suffered a heavy blow in August when two of its Spanish helicopters crashed, killing 17 troops on board.


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