French soldiers cut insurgent route to Kabul

8th March 2007, Comments 0 comments

KABUL, March 8, 2007 (AFP) - French and Afghan soldiers are working to block an insurgent route into the capital in an operation to "lock the gates of Kabul" to militants, the commander of the French force said Thursday.

KABUL, March 8, 2007 (AFP) - French and Afghan soldiers are working to block an insurgent route into the capital in an operation to "lock the gates of Kabul" to militants, the commander of the French force said Thursday.

Operation Magnet launched on Saturday with the involvement of 1,000 soldiers -- 400 of them French -- has reached the key district of Sarobi, about 70 kilometres (45 miles) east of Kabul, General Pierre de Villiers said.

The aim is to secure the area to stop the passage of militants from the east and from neighbouring Pakistan, he said.

It would also confiscate arms caches and facilitate development, with schools and veterinary clinic in the works, De Villiers said.

The operation was in particular intended to stop insurgents from reaching the notorious Tagab Valley, north of Kabul, in Kapisa province.

This included blocking the route through Sarobi, which the general said was a sanctuary for fighters with the Hezb-i-Islami (Islamic Party) of wanted militant Gulbuddin Hekmatyar, who has allied with the Taliban.

Taliban had also infiltrated the area, a security official said.

"By controlling the district, you control the major routes into Kabul," De Villiers said. "We want to lock the gates of Kabul."

Another major route was in the Mussawi valley, south of the city, where a similar operation was carried out in late 2006.

Kabul was shaken by a series of suicide and other bomb blasts late last year that killed about 40 people over several weeks. After a lull over winter, there are fears the violence will pick up in the coming months.

The insurgency is the worst in the south where ISAF and Afghan troops on Tuesday launched their biggest combined offensive in the southern province of Helmand, where officials admit areas are in the control of Taliban and druglords.

About 2,000 ISAF soldiers, out of a total of 36,000, are stationed in Kabul province under French command. There are 1,000 French soldiers with the force, which is drawn from 37 nations.

Copyright AFP

Subject: French news

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