US-led troops say kill 40 Taliban in Afghanistan
KABUL, Jun 17 (Reuters) U S-led forces have killed about 40 Taliban fighters as they gathered for a meeting in a compound as part of a major operation against the resurgent rebels in southern Afghanistan, the U S military said.
Foreign troops waited for about 50 rebels, including a bomb-making group, to gather for a meeting in the compound in Uruzgan province before striking yesterday, Lieutenant-Colonel Paul Fitzpatrick said in a statement late yesterday.
''The compound was severely damaged. We anticipate most of those present were killed.'' There was no immediate comment from the Taliban, ousted in 2001 but which has stepped up its operations in the volatile south ahead of NATO troops taking over from the U.S. in the region to allow Washington to pull out about 3,000 soldiers.
Two coalition soldiers were killed on Friday when their vehicle was blown up by a roadside bomb in eastern Kunar province, bordering Pakistan, another U.S. statement said.
Their nationality was not given.
Ghazni province governor Sher Alam Ibrahimi told Reuters five Taliban rebels were killed and at least 12 captured after an hours-long battle with Afghan troops and police yesterday.
In Kandahar province, the Taliban heartland, seven Taliban fighters and a policeman were killed when rebels attacked a police post overnight, a local official said.
Three rebels died when a mine they were planting exploded in neighbouring Helmand province, officials there said.
This week, foreign forces announced a major operation, Mountain Thrust, against the Taliban amid the worst violence since the U S-led 2001 invasion.
About 40 foreign soldiers have been killed in combat in Afghanistan this year, nearly 30 of them Americans.
They are among more than 900 people killed this year, more than 400 in May alone. Thousands of people have fled their homes fearing more fighting in the south, where the Taliban still enjoys considerable popular support.
REUTERS SHB HT1518