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Last Updated: Saturday, 24 June 2006, 15:34 GMT 16:34 UK
US-led forces 'kill 65 Taleban'
US troops taking part in Mountain Thrust exercise
Coalition forces announced a major new offensive last week
US-led coalition forces in Afghanistan say they have killed at least 65 Taleban militants in fresh offensives in the south.

Coalition and Afghan forces attacked a large group of militants and fought a three-hour battle in Zharie district in Kandahar province on Friday.

Troops fought a five-hour battle on the same day with Taleban fighters in neighbouring Uruzgan province.

Violence in Afghanistan has soared in recent months.


The Taleban and their allies have vowed to drive foreign forces out of the country.

A statement released by US-led coalition forces and the Afghan National Army said that in the fighting in Zharie district several militants fled to nearby villages and took civilians with them as human shields.

It said that around 40 insurgents were killed in the fighting in Uruzgan province after troops exchanged fire for more than five hours with extremists hiding in an orchard north-east of Tirin Kot, the Uruzgan capital.

Operation Mountain Thrust

The Afghan army commander for the south, Gen Rahmatullah Raufi, confirmed to AFP news agency that a battle had taken place in the area. He said about 20 Taleban members were killed and 18 wounded.

The general said three coalition soldiers were hurt in the clash. Rifles, machine guns and five rocket-launchers were seized.

Correspondents say Afghanistan is suffering its worst spell of violence since US-led forces overthrew the Taleban in late 2001.

Pakistan has meanwhile called for a separate multi-billion dollar fund in Afghanistan to create the conditions to allow several million Afghan refugees living in Pakistan to return home.

In an interview with the BBC, the Pakistani Foreign Minister, Khursheed Kasuri, said the return of an estimated two to three million refugees would remove a safe haven for the Taleban in refugee camps.

Pakistani Foreign Minister Khursheed Kasuri
If you take the refugees away, let's say, in two or three years, then at least once these people go away, there will be no easy refuge
Pakistan Foreign Minister Khursheed Kasuri

Mr Kasuri was responding to assertions frequently made by Afghan leaders that Pakistan is not doing enough to stop Taleban fighters grouping on its soil and crossing into Afghanistan to launch attacks against coalition and Afghan forces.

"We've suggested to the Americans that they are spending so much money, maybe it would cost four or five billion dollars to create the right conditions for these people to go back to Afghanistan." Mr Kasuri said.

Last week, coalition forces announced a major offensive, codenamed "Operation Mountain Thrust", against Taleban positions in the south.

Military officials say the operation has seen significant attacks on Taleban hideouts.

"The Afghan National Army and coalition forces continue to demonstrate how well they work together to defeat our common enemies," coalition spokesman Lt Col Paul Fitzpatrick said.

"Afghan and coalition forces will continue to place heavy pressure on Taleban insurgents hiding in southern Afghanistan in support of Operation Mountain Thrust."

Footage of Operation Mountain Thrust in Afghanistan

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