U.S. says troops kill 32 militants in Afghanistan

KABUL Wed Nov 26, 2008 3:08pm EST

Video footage obtained on November 26, 2008 by Reuters shows kidnapped French aid worker Dany Egreteau with rifles pointed at him at an unknown location. Egreteau who was kidnapped in Kabul on November 3 pleaded for his life as gunmen held assault rifles to his head. Egreteau, who was working for the French aid agency Solidarite Laique, said he had been held in a small room, blindfolded and chained for eight days, suggesting the tape could be some two weeks old. REUTERS/Handout via Reuters TV.

Video footage obtained on November 26, 2008 by Reuters shows kidnapped French aid worker Dany Egreteau with rifles pointed at him at an unknown location. Egreteau who was kidnapped in Kabul on November 3 pleaded for his life as gunmen held assault rifles to his head. Egreteau, who was working for the French aid agency Solidarite Laique, said he had been held in a small room, blindfolded and chained for eight days, suggesting the tape could be some two weeks old.

Credit: Reuters/Handout via Reuters TV.

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KABUL (Reuters) - U.S.-led coalition troops and Afghan security forces killed 32 militants in a series of raids against Taliban commanders in Afghanistan, the U.S. military said Wednesday.

Violence has sharply escalated in Afghanistan this year, the bloodiest period since the Taliban's removal in 2001, and has raised doubts about the prospects for security in the country despite an increasing number of foreign troops.

Afghan security forces and coalition forces killed seven militants late Wednesday, and uncovered three caches containing drugs and materials for making improvised explosive devices in the Nahr Surkh district of Helmand.

In one of the raids early Wednesday, coalition troops killed 15 militants and detained six suspected insurgents outside the southern city of Kandahar, the U.S. military said.

The soldiers were clearing "a compound known to be an IED command and control node" when fired upon. There were no casualties among civilians or coalition forces.

The other two attacks occurred Tuesday in southeastern Afghanistan. One targeted a senior Taliban commander believed to be a liaison between al Qaeda and Taliban networks and who had helped foreign fighters enter Afghanistan, the U.S. military said.

Five armed militants were killed during the operation, but the U.S. military did not name the commander or say whether he was among the casualties.

In Paktika province, coalition forces killed five armed militants and detained four more in another operation that targeted a pro-Taliban sub-commander, The U.S. military said.

The Taliban could not immediately be reached for comment and Reuters had no independent verification of the U.S. military's accounts.

More than 4,000 people, over a quarter of them civilians, have been killed in Afghanistan this year alone.

Separately, the Taliban kidnapped three engineers of a foreign-funded construction company in the northwestern province of Badghis overnight, a provincial official said.

In Helmand, five police were killed and five more went missing in an attack on their post late Tuesday, a provincial spokesman said. The attack may have been carried out by an officer with links to the insurgents.

(Writing by Sayed Salahuddin; Editing by Giles Elgood)

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