US and Afghan troops patrolling the insurgency-hit southern Afghan province of Zabul came under fire on Thursday resulting in a firefight in which 35 militants were killed, according to US military officials.
AFP - The US military said Friday that troops killed 35 militants in clashes and air strikes in Afghanistan, the latest in a recent upsurge of heavy battles in insurgent strongholds across the war-torn country.
The fighting erupted Thursday when Afghan and US-led troops came under heavy fire while on patrol in southern Zabul province, the military said.
"The combined forces returned fire and requested air support, killing 35 and wounding 13," it said in a statement.
The remaining militants fled, and the wounded treated and taken into Afghan army custody, it said.
No troops or civilians were reported hurt, the statement said.
The military did not say whether the militants were suspected Taliban but fighters from that group operate in Zabul and other southern provinces.
It was impossible to independently confirm details of the clash in Zabul's Daychopan district.
The province borders Pakistan's Baluchistan, which is rife with regional insurgency and where attacks have been blamed on Taliban militants. Daychopan is about 150 kilometres (90 miles) from the frontier.
Pakistan has since late April pressed a renewed anti-Taliban offensive on its side of the border which Afghanistan has welcomed, with the defence ministry pledging to cooperate in the fight against Islamist extremists.
Fighting linked to a Taliban-led insurgency has picked up there in recent weeks, with rebels stepping up bomb attacks and security forces hitting back with major operations.
The Afghan and US militaries also reported heavy fighting Thursday, further east in an area of Paktika province that also borders Baluchistan.
Acting on intelligence, security forces raided an encampment where a wanted commander of the Taliban's Haqqani network was believed to be meeting other militants.
The defence ministry said 35 militants were killed in the clash. Six blew themselves up to avoid capture, it said. The US military said around 30 died.
It is not clear if the wanted commander, named Sangeen, was among the dead.
The network was founded by Afghan Soviet resistance commander Jalaluddin Haqqani but is now believed to be led by his sons, notably Siraj Haqqani, who is said to be one of the Taliban's most powerful leaders.
Siraj Haqqani reportedly admitted to an attack targeting a five-star hotel in Kabul in January 2008 and the attempted assassination of President Hamid Karzai at a military parade in the capital in April 2008.
In another significant clash, the US and Afghan militaries said they killed 60 militants last week in the southern province of Helmand, a den of Taliban activity and opium production.
The troops also "seized the single-largest drug cache by Afghan-led forces in Afghanistan to date", statement said.
The haul included tonnes of opium poppy seeds, opium as well as morphine, heroin and hashish.
Afghan and Western officials say the Taliban earn millions of dollars a year from the drugs trade by charging poppy farmers a tax, and demanding protection money for poppy fields and trafficking routes.
Southern Afghanistan is the main battlefield of the insurgency led by the Taliban, who were in government between 1996 and 2001.
The uprising reached its deadliest last year and in March US President Barack Obama announced a new strategy for the battle.
He pledged 17,000 more combat troops for the south, at least 3,000 of whom are already in place, and vowed to quicken efforts to build the Afghan police and army with the despatch of 4,000 military trainers due this year.
Date created : 2009-05-29