Scores of Taliban die in Afghan clashes-US military

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KABUL, Sep 26 (Reuters) US-led coalition and Afghan forces killed scores of Taliban insurgents in two separate battles in southern Afghanistan, the U.S military said today.

More than 65 Taliban were killed in one of the clashes on Tuesday night in Deh Rawud district of Uruzgan province, it said in a statement.

Several dozen more insurgents were killed in Musa Qala district of neighbouring Helmand province since Tuesday in addition to more than 60 reported earlier, it said in another statement.

The Taliban rejected losses reported by the Afghan government and foreign troops, calling them propaganda.

Several provincial officials and residents told a Reuters reporter in the south that some civilians were also killed in the ground fighting and air raids.

The clashes in Deh Rawud district erupted when Taliban militants attempted to ambush a combat patrol of foreign and Afghan troops.

''Coalition air strike and artillery was requested from ground commanders to repel the Taliban attack which killed more than 65 insurgents,'' one the statements said, adding the militants numbered more than 80.

In Musa Qala, rebel fighters attacked foreign and Afghan troops, according to the US military.

''Members of the 205th Afghan National Army Corps, advised by coalition forces, killed more than 100 insurgents in an engagement, which has been on-going since yesterday morning near Musa Qala,'' the military said in its statement.

SUICIDE ATTACK Apart from the killing of one foreign soldier in Helmand, which was reported earlier, there were no other casualties among Afghan and coalition troops, it added.

But later in the day a suicide bomber blew himself up in the town of Sangin in Helmand wounding several Afghan police officers, at least one of whom was evacuated to a British military hospital, a British military spokesman said.

Helmand has suffered some of the fiercest fighting in Afghanistan since the Taliban regrouped after being driven from power in 2001.

They resumed large-scale attacks two years ago.

British troops have also mounted a large operation in Helmand in recent days, but unlike US forces, do not comment on Taliban casualty numbers.

Heavy fighting erupted in Musa Qala last year between British forces and besieging Taliban fighters. British troops pulled out under a deal in which tribal elders took control and agreed to keep the Taliban out.

But the rebels returned in February and have set up a shadow government with their own administrators, courts and officials. Now coalition forces are trying to reassert control.

Today, more than 1,000 people staged a demonstration against foreign troops, saying they killed two Islamic clerics overnight in southern Kandahar province's Zhari district and carried out house searches in the area.

They chanted slogans against foreign troops and Afghan President Hamid Karzai.

''Foreign forces must coordinate operations with Afghan forces in order to avoid misunderstanding,'' said the Zhari district chief.

''If these actions against ordinary people are not stopped, more people will pick up arms and will fight the government and its foreign allies for justice,'' Habib Sanzarai told Reuters.

Reuters JK DB2002

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