KABUL (Reuters) – Afghan and U.S.-led coalition forces have killed more than 100 Taliban in the southern Afghan province of Helmand during three days of fighting, the U.S. military said on Thursday.
Violence has surged in Afghanistan with more than 2,500 people, including 1,000 civilians, killed in the conflict in the first six months of this year, according to aid agencies.
“Afghan National Security Forces (ANSF) and coalition forces killed over 100 insurgents during combat operations in Helmand province August 25-28,” the U.S. military said in a statement.
“ANSF and coalition forces were conducting security patrols in the province when they were attacked multiple times by insurgents using small arms, rocket-propelled grenade and mortar fire, sparking numerous engagements,” it said.
The patrols returned fire and called in close-air support.
Mainly British troops have been engaged in heavy fighting with Taliban militants in Helmand province for three years.
They and U.S.-led coalition troops working alongside Afghan forces have inflicted many hundreds of casualties on the Taliban, but it is still one of the most active places for the insurgency and the centre of opium production.
Earlier, the Afghan Defence Ministry said its troops were engaged in fierce fighting with Taliban insurgents in the Nad Ali district of Helmand, but it was not clear if it was referring to the same clashes.
“Heavy casualties were inflicted during fierce fighting between Afghan soldiers and insurgents, but the exact number of casualties is not known,” the Defence Ministry said.
Elsewhere, Afghan and international soldiers killed and wounded 18 insurgents in clashes in the district of Arghandab in the southern province of Zabul, the Defence Ministry said in a statement on Thursday.
“Twelve dead bodies of the insurgents were left on the battlefield,” it said. Soldiers also found 10 kg (22 lbs) of opium left by the insurgents.
In a separate incident, Afghan soldiers killed 10 insurgents, including drug traffickers, during a security operation in Helmand’s Girishk district on Wednesday, the Defence Ministry said in another statement.
The incident was part of a larger operation aimed at clamping down on drug traffickers in the area. Helmand produces two-thirds of the country’s opium, the raw ingredient of heroin.
One Afghan soldier was killed and another wounded during the fighting, it said.
One coalition soldier was killed while on patrol on Wednesday in southern Afghanistan, the U.S. military said in a statement. It did not release the nationality of the dead soldier.
In southeastern Paktika province, coalition forces killed one militant on Wednesday after he attacked the soldiers, the U.S. military said in a separate statement.