Afghan, NATO troops kill at least 12 Taliban

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Kabul, Nov 18: Afghan and NATO-led troops, backed by air power, killed at least 12 Taliban fighters and wounded another 15 in a big operation in southern Afghanistan, a Defence Ministry spokesman said toay.

Mostly Canadian NATO troops and Taliban insurgents have been engaged in fierce fighting in the Zherai district, west of the biggest southern city of Kandahar, for more than a year with each side seizing then losing the same ground several times.

The apparent stalemate is typical of that across Afghanistan where insurgents are incapable of capturing and holding any towns, but Afghan and Western forces have not been able to clear insurgents from many remote regions either.

''There are 12 bodies on the ground, but blood traces indicate that there are more than 12 Taliban killed in the operation,'' said Defence Ministry spokesman Zaher Murad. ''It seems the Taliban have taken away their dead from the battleground.'' Many Taliban had been killed or wounded in the operation which began yesterday. NATO forces have called in airstrikes against insurgent positions and fighting was still going on, Kandahar provincial police chief said.

''We don't know exactly how many Taliban fighters were killed at the moment, but there are many killed and wounded,'' said the provincial police chief, Sayed Aqa Saqib.

A Taliban spokesman said only a few insurgents had been killed and the rebels had inflicted heavy casualties on Afghan and foreign forces.

More than 7,000 people have died since the hardline Islamist Taliban relaunched their insurgency to topple the pro-Western Afghan government and eject the more than 50,000 from the country.


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