Afghan sweep may have killed 40 insurgents: NATO

KABUL Thu Nov 18, 2010 8:51am EST

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KABUL (Reuters) - Allied forces may have killed more than 40 insurgents in a sweep in eastern Afghanistan this week, the military said on Thursday, an operation that saw the worst allied loss in a single battle in six months.

Afghan troops and the NATO-led International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) wrapped up the four-day operation in the Pech River valley of volatile Kunar province, not far from the Pakistan border, on Thursday, ISAF said in a statement.

"Reports indicate more than 40 insurgents may have been killed in the security sweep of the area," it said.

The raid, called Operation Bulldog Bite, came amid an upsurge in fighting ahead of the two-day summit meeting of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) starting in Lisbon on Friday.

The pace and scope for foreign troop withdrawals will be a priority topic at the summit as NATO members look for an exit to the war, now in its 10th year.

The Pech Valley sweep was aimed at rooting out Taliban insurgents and seizing weapons stores in the area about 200 km (125 miles) east of Kabul. Most allied troops in the area are American.

Five ISAF troops taking part in the sweep were killed on Sunday in several hours of fighting with Taliban insurgents, the coalition said.

The military death toll was the highest in one incident since a suicide car bomber killed six troops, including five Americans, on May 18 in Kabul along with 12 Afghan civilians.

A British soldier was killed on Wednesday by insurgent gunfire on Wednesday in the southern province of Helmand, the British Defense Ministry said.

A homemade bomb also killed an ISAF service member in southern Afghanistan on Wednesday, ISAF said.

A total of seven ISAF troops were killed on Sunday, the worst single day for foreign troops in a month.

(Editing by Paul Tait and Sugita Katyal)

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