Coalition: 17 Afghan rebels killed
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(CNN) -- U.S.-led coalition forces have destroyed an enemy bunker in southern Afghanistan, killing 17 insurgents, the military said Friday.
Enemy fighters were intercepted on Wednesday setting up an ambush site near Tarin Kowt in Oruzgan province, a military statement said.
Meanwhile Friday, attackers bombed a school in an eastern province near the Pakistani border, the coalition command in Afghanistan said.
These latest reports come amid increased fighting in recent months between Taliban militants and coalition forces in Afghanistan.
The school incident took place east of Gardez in Paktia province. Ten classrooms were destroyed in a bombing overnight, according to reports from the Afghan National Police.
There were no injuries but the Combined Forces Command was scornful of the perpetrators, saying "enemies of Afghanistan once again demonstrated their contempt for children's education."
"The Afghan government, with the help of coalition nations, is working tirelessly to build schools so children can have a better future," Lt. Col. Paul Fitzpatrick, spokesman for Combined Joint Task Force - 76, is quoted as saying in a command news release.
"This incident demonstrates the only vision extremists can offer."
The command said "coalition forces have built 140 new schools and refurbished and repaired 148 schools in the past year."
Meanwhile, 17 Afghan "extremists" were killed in fighting on Wednesday with coalition forces, the command said in a news release.
"Coalition forces observed extremists with heavy weapons traveling back and forth from a bunker establishing an ambush site. Joint fires were used to engage the enemy position, killing 17 extremists. It is believed the extremists used the bunker to attack Afghan National Army and coalition forces from a distance on three separate occasions during the past week," the command said in a statement.
Fitzpatrick, quoted in another news release, said this operation was part of the Operation Mountain Thrust campaign, a largely NATO campaign in southern Afghanistan involving 10,000 Afghan and coalition troops.
"We are finding them wherever they attempt to operate and we are intercepting them before they can do harm against our forces or innocent civilians," he is quoted as saying.
On Thursday, Afghan President Hamid Karzai denounced al Qaeda deputy Ayman al-Zawahiri as the "cause of destruction" in his country. (Full story)
Al-Zawahiri, who leads al Qaeda along with Osama bin Laden, had been killing Afghans long before the 9/11 attacks and subsequent U.S.-led invasion, Karzai said.
"[Al-Zawahiri] first killed Afghans for years ... and then he went to America and destroyed the twin towers," Karzai said.
"So whether America wants him or not, whether the rest of the world wants him or not, we in Afghanistan want him arrested and put before justice."
Karzai hinted that al-Zawahiri may be within Afghanistan's borders.
The Afghan leader's comments came hours after the release of a new videotaped message from al-Zawahiri in which he calls on students in Kabul to rise up and "join in with the mujahedeen forces in attacking the invaders and freeing Muslim Afghanistan."
The video was posted on Islamic Web sites Wednesday evening.
In it, al-Zawahiri addresses his message to Afghans and discusses what he terms "crimes against the Afghan people by the Americans." (Watch how al Qaeda seeks to capitalize on events in Afghanistan -- 3:06)
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