The U.S. Army said it had launched a fresh military operation in southern Afghanistan this morning with an air assault southeast of the city of Kandahar.
"The White Devils of Coalition Task Force 82 began Operation Valiant Strike with an air assault at 6 a.m.," the military said in a statement issued at Bagram air base, its headquarters in Afghanistan. "Valiant Strike will consist of offensive operations southeast of Kandahar."
The operation came the same day that the U.S. launched a war against Iraq and the day after Afghan officials announced that four of their soldiers were killed when a security checkpoint was attacked outside the town of Spin Buldak, near the border with Pakistan.
Two attackers were also killed in the Tuesday night clash in Sheru Ubah district, Spin Buldak security chief Obaidullah said. He said some Taliban members were believed to be part of the attacking group.
With winter letting up, violence-torn Afghanistan has seen a sudden resurgence in surprise attacks on government fixtures and international-coalition bases.
Most are blamed on members of the deposed Taliban regime or the Al Qaeda terrorist network, or on renegade warlord Gulbuddin Hekmatyar's forces, which are believed to have links to the two groups.
In Kabul, officials said Afghanistan would hand over to Pakistan just 72 Pakistani prisoners, not several hundred as predicted by Pakistan.
"The rest are suspected of having links with Al Qaeda," Deputy Interior Minister Hilal Uddin said. "They will not be released for the time being."