WASHINGTON (American Forces Press Service, July 24, 2007) - Afghan National Army Soldiers and coalition forces were attacked by an unknown number of enemy fighters during a patrol on the western side of the Helmand River in the Musa Qalah district of Afghanistan's Helmand province July 22.

The Afghan-led patrol was near Shaban Village when insurgents began attacking with rocket-propelled grenades and small arms, officials reported. The combined patrol repelled the initial attack with small-arms fire.

Coalition forces were then engaged by a suspected insurgent suicide vehicle bomber. Two insurgents were killed and the vehicle was destroyed during this engagement.

Immediately after the vehicle was destroyed, more than seven insurgents from two compounds within Shaban Village began firing on the forces, military officials said. Close-air support was called in to suppress the large number of enemy fighters within the compounds.

Coalition air support dropped one 500-pound bomb on one of the compounds, and ground forces immediately moved into the compound to assess the damage.

As the battle continued, additional insurgents arrived to reinforce the enemy positions within 500 meters of Shaban village. The combined force maneuvered to defendable positions and then directed close-air support to drop munitions on positively identified enemy positions. Four bombs were dropped during the engagement, and about 24 enemy fighters were killed in the prolonged battle.

"The insurgents further demonstrate their intentions to kill Afghan civilians and destroy Afghanistan with these actions," said Army Maj. Chris Belcher, a Combined Joint Task Force 82 spokesman. "By attacking the pro-government forces from civilian areas, the insurgents are knowingly placing innocent Afghans in the line of fire to create more civilian casualties. This is simply unacceptable, and the world should condemn their actions."

In other operations, Afghan National Police continued taking the lead in providing security and civil order in their country executing a unilateral mission ending in the arrest of a key terrorist leader in the Nangarhar province July 21.

Afghan officers arrested Shir Agha at his home in Tutu village and later turned him over to coalition forces in the area. The Afghan National Police leadership had minimal coalition assistance during the planning and execution of the operation.

"This operation is indicative of the Nangarhar Afghan National Police's capacity to conduct successful high-risk operations as a unilateral force," Maj. Belcher said. "The ANP's ability to enforce law and order in Nangarhar province is demonstrated by their execution of successful missions that support the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan."

(Compiled from Combined Joint Task Force 82 news releases.)