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Afghan police battle Taliban, kill three

Written by: Staff
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LASHKAR GAH, Afghanistan, May 10 (Reuters) Afghan police killed three Taliban insurgents who ambushed a patrol in a southern province where British troops are overseeing security, a provincial official today said.

The Taliban have stepped up their campaign against foreign troops and the government in recent months with a wave of roadside and suicide bombings, attacks and assassinations.

Taliban gunmen ambushed police in the Sangin district of Helmand province yesterday, a provincial spokesman said.

''There were no casualties among police either in the ambush or during the clash that followed,'' said the spokesman, Mahaiuddin.

Foreign troops were not involved, he said.

Britain has started deploying troops in Helmand as part of plans for the expansion of a NATO-led peacekeeping mission that will see 3,300 troops in the Afghan south.

Canada has about 2,200 troops in the region and the Netherlands is soon sending up to 1,600.

Four Canadian soldiers were killed in a roadside bomb on April 22 and two Italians died in a similar blast on May 5.

Taliban attacks are aimed at undermining domestic support for the deployments, military officials say.

Canadian Foreign Minister Peter MacKay reaffirmed Canada's commitment to Afghanistan on Wednesday and said Canada would remain committed until the mission was complete, even if that took longer than expected.

''We recognise that it is going to take, perhaps, a longer period of time than was first envisioned,'' MacKay told a news conference in Kabul after talks with President Hamid Karzai.

''We are committed to the completion and result of the work that we have undertaken,'' said MacKay, who earlier visited Canadian troops in Kandahar.

Opinion polls show Canadians are sharply divided over the wisdom of the Afghan mission.

Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper said last month the troops would be in Afghanistan for years to come.

Harper has declined a request from a leftist opposition party to commit to a parliamentary vote on any extension of the Canadian troops' deployment beyond early 2007.

The Canadian and other NATO reinforcements will allow the United States to cut its troops numbers in Afghanistan form more than 19,000 to about 16,500.

REUTERS SY HS1753

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