Afghans say kill 2 Taliban kidnappers of Koreans

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KABUL, Sep 18 (Reuters) Afghan and US-led coalition forces killed 12 Taliban fighters today, including two militant leaders involved in the kidnap of 23 South Koreans in July, a provincial police chief said.

The Taliban snatched the 23 Korean church volunteers from a bus in Ghazni, southwest of Kabul, and killed two of them before releasing the rest after holding them for more than a month.

Ghazni Police Chief Ali Shah Ahmadzai said the insurgents were killed in a coalition air strike in the Giro district of the province.

''Two prominent Taliban commanders involved in the abductions of the South Koreans were killed,'' he said. ''Mullah Abdullah Jan and Mullah Muslimyaar were influential Taliban leaders.'' A US military statement said several militants were shot dead in an operation by Afghan and coalition forces in the Giro district and four detained.

''Precision munitions'' were used to destroy a building, the statement said. But US military spokesman said he could not confirm the identities of those killed.

The same police chief said another of the leaders of the kidnappers was killed in a clash two weeks ago.

In the restive southern province of Helmand, Afghan and US-led coalition forces killed 15 Taliban insurgents in two different clashes and a British soldier was killed in an explosion in a third location, officials said today.

CLASHES Nine Taliban insurgents were killed in an air-strike in the Kajaki district of Helmand yesterday when Taliban tried to ambush Afghan soldiers, a Defence Ministry statement said.

''Based on intelligence about a Taliban ambush, we called in air power which killed nine violent extremist Taliban,'' it said.

Meanwhile, Afghan and US-led coalition soldiers killed six Taliban insurgents in the Garmser district of the same province on Monday when Taliban fighters attacked Afghan and coalition troops, further ministry statements said.

The US-led coalition says hundreds of Taliban fighters have been killed in fighting in the last month. But Western forces have also suffered a steady stream of casualties undermining support in their home countries for their mission in Afghanistan.

An explosion hit a British army convoy in the Gereshk district of Helmand on Monday killing one soldier, the British Ministry of Defence said.

In the north of the country, a convoy of Swedish troops came under attack on Tuesday close to the city of Mazar-i-Sharif, but there were no casualties, a spokesman for the International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) said, adding it was too early to clearly identify the nature of the attack.

More than 7,000 people have been killed in the past 19 months in Afghanistan, the bloodiest period since US-led and Afghan forces toppled the Taliban in 2001.

Reuters ARB GC1725

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