Afghan commandos caught in fierce Taliban attack

An exhausted team of Afghan special forces had no time to recover from an overnight operation in the southern province of Kandahar before responding to an SOS call from a stranded police officer surrounded by Taliban fighters on the outskirts of Kandahar city.

The officer, Ahmad Shah, had been held up, alone, for 18 hours and was injured. The rest of his team had surrendered to the Taliban and previous attempts to extract him had failed.

Kandahar is one of many provinces to see a recent surge in offensives by the Taliban, which says it wants to be involved in running the country peacefully although it has always opposed the presence of foreign forces.

The area where Shah was stranded is a hotly contested one in Kandahar - the birthplace of the Taliban in the 1990s and which continues to be a stronghold for the Islamist insurgents.

The special forces team left in a convoy of eight Humvee vehicles carrying between 30 to 40 commandos.

Just as the convoy entered the area where Shah was holed up, they came under heavy Taliban fire.

A gun battle ensued as the convoy made its way to Shah's location, and he was hurriedly loaded onto one of the convoy vehicles amidst a hail of bullets.

There was a series of loud explosions: The first three Humvees had been hit by rocket fire and destroyed. Personnel told Reuters they had been hit by an SPG-82, an anti-tank grenade launcher that is able to disable even armored vehicles.

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