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Taliban say Afghan offensive is on, 22 dead

Written by: Staff

KABUL, Mar 29 (Reuters) Insurgents in Afghanistan attacked a military base today in which an American, a Canadian soldier and at least 12 militants were killed, as a Taliban spokesman said a spring offensive had begun.

The Taliban said their fighters attacked the foreign forces in the southern province of Helmand.

In another incident, a roadside bomb killed six Afghan soldiers yesterday in Helmand's Sangin district, and two policemen were killed in a raid on their post in Kandahar town, also in the volatile south, security officials said.

The U S military said one of its soldiers was killed in the attack by a ''significant'' insurgent force on a forward operating base. A Canadian military spokeswoman said one Canadian was killed and three wounded, though not seriously.

''Coalition forces employed a variety of combined arms to include close air support and are believed to have killed at least a dozen enemy insurgents,'' the U S military said in a statement. One Afghan soldier was wounded, it said.

Twelve U S troops have been killed in fighting this year.

Nearly 60 Americans were killed in Afghan fighting last year, the worst for U S forces since they invaded in 2001 to oust the Taliban.

The Taliban vowed more violence saying their spring offensive had begun. ''The weather is warming and Taliban attacks on coalition and Afghan forces have begun,'' Taliban spokesman Mullah Mohammad Hanif said by telephone from an undisclosed location.

Fighting usually picks up in the Afghan spring when snow blocking mountain passes melts.

Despite the rising level of violence, the United States is hoping to trim its force of more than 18,000 troops in Afghanistan by several thousand, while NATO partners, including Britain, Canada and the Netherlands are sending about 6,000 more.

British troops are based in Helmand but a spokesman for the force said he had no information about Wednesday's fighting.


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