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Insurgents in Zabul launch series of attacks; one injured

By STARS AND STRIPES Published: October 26, 2011

FOB LAGMAN, Afghanistan — Insurgents launched a series of largely unsuccessful attacks against coalition and Afghan bases across Zabul province Tuesday in a rare display of force that left one coalition soldier wounded.

In a wave of mostly hit-and-run attacks, militants struck 17 positions in their broadest offensive in the province since August, according to the U.S.-led coalition command.

One Romanian was injured by shrapnel, according to the commander of coalition operations in Zabul, who characterized the injury as serious but not life-threatening. No significant damage was reported.

“It was a joke,” Col. Blake C. Ortner, commander of Combined Team Zabul, said of the attacks.

He believed militants likely organized the barrage as a show of force to demonstrate their toughness before laying low for the winter, a season during which insurgent operations in Afghanistan typically die down.

The Taliban’s media web site said only that a tank was destroyed at a checkpoint and that “other losses were also sustained by the enemy.”

While the attacks carried on throughout the day Tuesday, nearly all were over in a matter of moments. One involved just three or four rounds of small arms fire directed at a base, Ortner said, while indirect fire, such as mortars, were used in others. Most rounds appeared to miss their intended targets.

“One of the challenges we have in responding is we’re very cautious in how we respond,” Ortner said. “We take a lot of care to avoid civilian casualties.”

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