LAT : NATO soldier, 60 Taliban killed in battles in southern Afghanistan

Friday, July 27, 2007

NATO soldier, 60 Taliban killed in battles in southern Afghanistan

From the Associated Press | July 26, 2007

KABUL, Afghanistan -- U.S.-led coalition forces and Afghan troops clashed with militants in two separate battles in southern Afghanistan, leaving more than 60 suspected Taliban dead, while a NATO soldier was killed in another incident, officials said today.

Coalition forces and Afghan troops late Wednesday attacked on a cluster of buildings in Helmand province that militants have been using to launch attacks, triggering a 12-hour gunbattle.

"Coalition air support dropped two bombs on the compounds with the greatest concentration of insurgents," a coalition statement said. "Both compounds produced significant secondary explosions immediately suggesting a large quantity of explosive material was present in each."

More than 50 Taliban were killed in the clash and a number of others were wounded, the coalition said.

The clash happened near the village of Musa Qala, where a peace deal struck last year with local elders effectively ceded control of the area to Taliban fighters. Militants use the village and surrounding areas as a staging ground for raids against Afghan and foreign troops.

The most recent attack, using heavy machine guns and rocket-propelled grenade launchers on a coalition patrol, triggered the assault on the militant compound. A coalition soldier broke his hand during the engagement, it said.

"They are using Musa Qala as a base of support and it is believed that they will stay and defend the area rather than use their normal hit-and-run tactics," the coalition said.

In neighboring Kandahar province's Maruf district, Afghan troops clashed with Taliban for three hours on Wednesday, leaving 10 suspected militants and one policemen dead, said Sayed Afghan Saqib, Kandahar provincial police chief.

A NATO soldier was also killed today following a clash with militants in southern Afghanistan, the alliance said in a statement. The soldier's nationality and the exact location of the clash were not revealed.

Violence has risen sharply in Afghanistan in the last two months. More than 3,500 people, mostly militants, have been killed in insurgency-related violence this year, according to an Associated Press tally of casualty figures provided by Western and Afghan officials.