NATO and Afghan troops kill 65 Taliban in south

KANDAHAR, Afghanistan (Reuters) – Afghan and NATO-led forces killed 65 Taliban militants preparing to attack the provincial capital of the southern province of Helmand, the provincial governor’s spokesman Daud Ahmadi said on Sunday.

The leader of the group of Taliban militants, Mullah Qudratullah, was also among the dead, he said, but there were no casualties among Afghan and NATO forces.

Most NATO troops in Helmand are British.

The Taliban militants were preparing to attack an Afghan forces’ base in the capital of Helmand, Lashkar Gah, late on Saturday when the joint operation was launched, Ahmadi said.

One Afghan police vehicle was destroyed in the fighting, but there was no other damage.

“Insurgents were seen gathering on the outskirts of the town, prior to launching a mortar attack,” the NATO-led International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) said in a statement.

ISAF and Afghan forces then attacked the militants.

“During this counter-attack, ISAF forces successfully conducted an air strike in which multiple enemy forces were killed,” ISAF said.

Britain has some 8,000 troops in the mainly desert province, which is bisected by a lush strip of land irrigated by the Helmand River where about half the world’s of opium is grown.

British troops have been engaged in almost daily battles with Taliban militants in Helmand since they moved into the province in 2006, but the capital Lashkar Gah has been relatively quiet.

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