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Taliban fighters use high-tech gear to kill Afghan forces

MAZAR-I-SHARIF, Afghanistan >> Taliban insurgents using sophisticated night vision and laser targeting equipment overran Afghan army positions near the northern city of Kunduz today, killing at least eight people and wounding five more, Afghan officials said.

The officials blamed what they said was a Taliban Red Unit, an insurgent formation that has increasingly featured in attacks on government positions, especially at night.

“The unit is equipped with American weapons and night vision,” said Imamuddin Rahmani, a spokesman for the police in Kunduz. “The Red Unit carried out several attacks on check posts in Kunduz, captured the check posts and killed several soldiers. The Red Unit is a headache for security forces in Kunduz.”

Today’s attack was centered on an Afghan National Army post in the village of Gholam Sakhi, about 3 miles from Kunduz city, said Nangyalay, an Afghan police commander who was stationed in the area. Nangyalay, who like many Afghans uses only one name, said the attack started at 2:30 a.m. and fighting continued for two hours, leaving at least six soldiers and two police officers dead. In addition, the militants briefly occupied the base, destroying a Humvee vehicle and looting mortars and other weapons before fleeing, Nangyalay said.

The Taliban’s spokesman, Zabihullah Mujahid, said that the group was responsible. He added that the insurgents had used a “special forces” unit to carry out the attack, which he claimed had killed 20 soldiers. Such casualty claims are often inflated. Mujahid said the insurgents did not suffer any casualties, which government officials did not dispute.

The insurgents’ Red Units have been active in several parts of the country. In November, they carried out a series of five attacks in less than two days, killing dozens of Afghan police officers with the aid of night-vision goggles and weapons with infrared sights. Afghan officials have described the weaponry as American-made, suggesting it was either captured, stolen or bought from Afghan forces.

Kunduz has been the scene of heavy fighting for more than two years, with the city twice falling to the insurgents for brief periods. Intervention by U.S. Special Operations troops and heavy U.S. bombing has repeatedly fended off Taliban advances there.

In an unrelated event today, at least five civilians were killed when mortar shells struck a bazaar area in the Khwaja Sabz Posh district of the province of Faryab, according to Abdullah Masoomi, the governor of the district. He said five or six mortar rounds had struck the bazaar around 11 a.m. Two women and a child were among the dead; an additional 25 people were wounded. Masoomi blamed the Taliban, and said the shelling was unprovoked, with no fighting reported in the area before the attack.

There was no immediate response from the Taliban regarding the attack.

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