U.S.-led troops kill 55 Taliban after Afghan ambush

KABUL (Reuters) - U.S.-led coalition troops killed some 55 Taliban insurgents who ambushed them in southeastern Afghanistan, close to the Pakistan border, the U.S. military said on Monday.

U.S. soldiers from 101st Airborne Division, 506th Infantry Regiment, 2nd Battalion, 4th Platoon patrol in Khost province, Afghanistan, May 25, 2008. REUTERS/Rafal Gerszak

There has been a sharp rise in violence along Afghanistan’s eastern frontier in recent months. NATO generals say de-facto ceasefires between Pakistan’s new government and militants in its border region free up insurgents to infiltrate into Afghanistan.

Taliban insurgents ambushed the coalition forces with small arms fire and rocket-propelled grenades in the Zerok district of Paktika province on Friday, a U.S. military statement said.

Among those killed were three Taliban leaders.

“Around 55 anti-Afghan forces were killed, 25 wounded and three detained as part of the combined response of coalition ground and air forces,” the statement said.

NATO’s International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) and the U.S.-led coalition force in Afghanistan do not usually disclose Taliban casualties and normally use vague formulations such as saying “several” militants were killed.

In another incident, a suicide car bomber killed five civilians and wounded 11 more on Monday in an attack apparently targeting an international troop convoy in western Afghanistan, the district governor said.

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The bomber struck in the Shindand district of Herat province, the district governor Lal Mohammad told Reuters. The toll from the explosion could rise, he said.

The target was an Italian troop convoy patrolling the area, regional police spokesman, Abdul Rahoof Ahmadi, said.

The NATO force was not immediately aware of the incident.

Elsewhere, coalition troops killed several insurgents in operations in Ghazni province, southwest of Kabul, and in Helmand province in the south.

More than 6,000 people were killed in Afghanistan last year and this year there are no signs of any let-up in the fighting with the Taliban unable to overwhelm Afghan and foreign forces and the government and its allies unable to quash the insurgency.

Writing by Jon Hemming; Editing by Sanjeev Miglani