60 Taliban killed in battles in southern Afghanistan
KABUL, Afghanistan (AP) -- U.S.-led coalition forces and Afghan troops fought two separate battles with militants in southern Afghanistan, killing more than 60 suspected Taliban insurgents, officials said Thursday.
Coalition forces and Afghan troops attacked a cluster of buildings in Helmand province that militants have been using to launch attacks. More than 50 Taliban were killed and several others were wounded in the 12-hour gunbattle that ended early Thursday.
"Coalition air support dropped two bombs on the compounds with the greatest concentration of insurgents," a coalition statement said. "Both compounds produced significant secondary explosions immediately suggesting a large quantity of explosive material was present in each."
The clash happened near the village of Musa Qala, where a peace deal struck last year with local elders effectively ceded control of the area to Taliban fighters. The agreement between the elders and the Helmand government prevents NATO and Taliban forces from entering the town, but militants still use the area as a staging ground for raids against Afghan and foreign troops.
Militants recently attacked a coalition patrol with heavy machine guns and rocket-propelled grenade launchers, prompting the assault on the compound. A coalition soldier broke his hand during the fight, the coalition said.
"They are using Musa Qala as a base of support and it is believed that they will stay and defend the area rather than use their normal hit-and-run tactics," the coalition said.
In neighboring Kandahar province, Afghan troops clashed with the Taliban for three hours leaving 10 suspected militants and one policemen dead, said Sayed Afghan Saqib, Kandahar provincial police chief.
Violence has risen sharply in Afghanistan in the last two months. More than 3,500 people, mostly militants, have been killed in insurgency-related violence this year, according to an Associated Press tally of casualty figures provided by Western and Afghan officials.
(Copyright 2007 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)