Afghan, U.S.-led troops kill70 Taliban fighters in clashes

Sunday, September 2, 2007

KABUL, Afghanistan -- U.S.-led coalition and Afghan security forces killed about 70 suspected militants in Afghanistan, where violence is running at its highest level since the ouster of the Taliban regime six years ago, authorities said Saturday.

The surge in militant attacks comes despite the presence of more than 50,000 foreign troops and 110,000 Afghan police and military officers, as well as a multimillion dollar reconstruction effort to rebuild the shattered nation.

Late Friday, Afghan security forces backed by U.S.-led troops raided compounds in three villages in the remote Pitigal Valley border region, where the coalition said intelligence showed that top militant leaders take refuge as they travel between Pakistan and Afghanistan.

Afghanistan has accused Pakistan of failing to do enough to prevent the movement of militants and weapons across the frontier. Pakistan -- which before 2001 had close ties with the Taliban -- denies the charge, saying it has deployed tens of thousands of troops.

The troops killed more than 20 insurgents and detained 11 others in the raids, which were just three miles from the border. They discovered a bomb-making factory and seized weapons and communication gear, the statement said. One coalition soldier was wounded in the raids, it said.

Meanwhile, a bomb attached to a bicycle in a commercial district of the northern city of Mazar-e-Sharif wounded nine people, two seriously, said police spokesman Sher Jan Durani.

In the central province of Ghazni, Afghan police attacked a group of Taliban planning to strike security forces, killing 18 and arresting six others, said provincial police Gen. Ali Shah Ahmadai.

In the Musa Qala district in southern Helmand province, a combined police and coalition patrol came under attack Friday from mortars, rocket-propelled grenades and small-arms fire, the coalition said in a statement. In the fight that ensued, almost two dozen insurgents were killed.

Also in Musa Qala, Afghan forces Saturday called in coalition airstrikes after coming under attack, the coalition said. The strikes on the "known enemy positions" killed seven insurgents, a coalition statement said.

Militants have been running parts of Musa Qala since a peace deal last year between local elders and Afghan government officials, supported by British troops in the province. The deal effectively turned over Musa Qala and the surrounding areas to Taliban control.

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