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Last Updated: Sunday, 10 September 2006, 14:22 GMT 15:22 UK
Nato kills 94 'Taleban fighters'
Nato and Afghan forces have killed 94 Taleban fighters in intense overnight clashes in southern Afghanistan, the military alliance says.

Ground troops, backed up by air support, fought four battles in Kandahar province, Nato said.

It is part of Operation Medusa, which Nato says has killed 420 insurgents since it began more than a week ago.

In a separate incident in the east of the country, a provincial governor was killed in a suicide bomb attack.

Paktia Governor, Hakim Taniwal, was in a car leaving his office in the provincial capital Gardez when he was targeted by the bomber with explosives attached to his body.

Hakim Taniwal at an election count in September 2005 [Photo by Danny Aeberhard]
Governor Taniwal is the highest-ranking Afghan official to be killed

A bodyguard and driver were also killed in the attack, for which the Taleban has claimed responsibility.

Governor Taniwal is the highest-ranking Afghan official to be killed since the Taleban insurgency began.

The head of the UN assistance operation in Gardez, capital of Paktia province, Thomas Gregg, told the BBCWorld Service's Newshour programme the governor's death was a major setback.

"In many ways, it was Governor Taniwal's positive attributes that made him a target," Thomas Gregg said.

"He was professional, he was honest, and he was a hard working public servant. And despite holding Australian citizenship, he had left his family in Australia and returned to Afghanistan to participate in its rebuilding.

"It's a ... very sad day for both Afghanistan and the international community. He was a fine leader."

'Other elements'

The latest fighting in southern Afghanistan took place in the Taleban stronghold of Panjwayi and neighbouring Zhari district, not far from Kandahar city.

Now the ground has been lost and all we're doing in places like Sangin is surviving
Captain Leo Docherty

Nato said insurgents suffered further casualties when a counterattack was intercepted.

Nato spokesman Maj Toby Jackson said that while the insurgents were primarily Taleban there were other elements involved.

"There are elements involved from internal, other, groups within Afghanistan, who are resisting the central government's extension," he said.

"There are also a mixture of criminality and factional fighters as part of what we describe as insurgents."

Disputed claim

It comes a day after Nato carried out air strikes and artillery barrages in the same area, which, according to the alliance, killed 40 Taleban.

Operation Medusa, led by Canadian forces, began on 2 September and aims to drive the insurgents from their strongholds in Kandahar.

It is the biggest operation in the area since the Nato-led International Security Assistance Force (Isaf) took over southern Afghanistan from a US-led coalition at the end of July.

Taleban spokesmen have disputed Nato's claim that the operation has so far killed 420 insurgents.

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