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Afghan and NATO forces kill and wound 50 Taliban

KABUL (Reuters) - Afghan and NATO-forces killed and wounded more than 50 Taliban insurgents in a large operation in southern Afghanistan, the Afghan Defence Ministry said on Monday.

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Afghan and mainly Western forces are struggling to contain a Taliban insurgency based in the south and east which is hampering reconstruction and aid efforts and undermining faith in the government of President Hamid Karzai.

Sunday’s clash, in the south-central province of Uruzgan, comes as troops from the NATO-led International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) and Afghan forces are conducting a large offensive in the area against Taliban rebels.

“This is part of the Spin Ghar operation which began on Thursday,” said Defence Ministry spokesman Zaher Murad. “We don’t know exactly how many insurgents were killed, their bodies are still on the battlefield.”

He said Afghan and ISAF forces fought the insurgents on the ground and called in air strikes to defeat the rebels. There were no Afghan government or ISAF casualties, he said.

Several dozen Taliban were killed in the fighting, an ISAF spokesman said. Thirteen insurgents were also captured, Murad said. Dutch and Australian troops form the bulk of ISAF forces in Uruzgan.


Further east, police killed 10 Taliban in neighboring Ghazni province on Monday, the provincial police chief said. One policeman was also wounded in the operation in the same area where 23 South Koreans were taken hostage in July.

Afghan and foreign forces have launched a series of operations in the area since 21 of the Koreans were freed a month later and say they have killed or captured up to 12 of those involved in the kidnap and killing of two of the hostages.

Karzai has also replaced the governor of Ghazni with a man with strong ties with local tribes with the result, officials say, that some 50 local Taliban gave themselves up and security has markedly improved in the province.

In the south, a suicide bomber killed four people, including a policeman and a child, in the provincial capital of Helmand on Monday, the Interior Ministry said.

“The bomber detonated explosive attached to his body in the Lashkar Gah bazaar this morning and killed two civilians, including one child and one Afghan police,” said Reuters reporter Abdul Qudoos at the scene of the attack.

A roadside bomb also killed a soldier with U.S.-led coalition forces who was escorting a supply convoy to Afghan army units in the Sangin area of Helmand on Monday, the U.S. military said.

Mainly British and U.S. forces in Helmand have seen some of the fiercest fighting in Afghanistan since the Taliban relaunched their insurgency two years ago.

There was no immediate claim of responsibility.

Taliban insurgents have carried out more than 130 suicide bombs so far this year, killing more than 200 people in their campaign to oust the Afghan government and force foreign troops to leave the country.

Additional reporting by Abdul Qudoos in Lashkar Gah, Sher Ahmad in Ghazni and Jon Hemming in Kabul