Afghan, NATO troops kill dozens of Taliban fighters

KABUL (Reuters) – Afghan and NATO-led forces killed or wounded scores of Taliban insurgents in a joint air and ground operation in southern Afghanistan, the Afghan Defence Ministry said on Sunday.

The ministry did not give an exact number of militants killed in the latest clash near the town of Deh Rawood in the province of Uruzgan on Saturday, but Afghan security sources said nearly 50 Taliban fighters had died.

“The bodies of the militants are on the grounds and Mullah Hashim, a well-known commander of the group, was among those killed,” the Defence Ministry said in a statement.

NATO forces in Uruzgan are under the command of Dutch troops.

Meanwhile, U.S.-led coalition and Afghan troops killed more than a dozen Taliban insurgents during an air strike in the Deh Rawood district of the same province on Friday, a U.S. military statement said.

The statement did not say how many militants died but an Afghan provincial police chief said 13 were killed.

Elsewhere in the south, a mine killed two soldiers from the U.S.-led coalition in the province of Kandahar, a U.S. military statement said.

“Coalition forces, along with Afghan National Security Forces, were conducting a security patrol in the Zharmi District when their vehicle struck a mine placed on a frequently traveled road,” said the statement, issued late on Saturday.

Taliban insurgents planted hundreds of mines and roadside bombs in 2007, contributing to a record year of violence that killed more than 6,000 people, nearly 2,000 of them civilians.

More than 200 foreign troops were killed in Afghanistan in 2007 while nearly 30 troops from the U.S.-led coalition and NATO-led International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) have been killed since so far this year.

Taliban rebels are mainly active in southern and eastern parts of Afghanistan that share long borders with neighboring Pakistan. Afghan officials say insurgents are trained, equipped, funded and have safe havens on the other side of the border.

Afghan and NATO forces both say they need more troops to fight a revived Taliban insurgency. The United States is pressing NATO allies to come up with more troops and trainers for Afghan forces at a summit in early April.

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