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Last Updated: Saturday, 1 September 2007, 14:21 GMT 15:21 UK
Rebels killed in Afghan clashes
At least 40 suspected Taleban rebels have been killed in clashes around Afghanistan, the US-led coalition says.

It says almost two dozen militants were killed in a fierce fighting on Friday in the southern Helmand province.

Also on Friday, more than 20 fighters died in the north-eastern Nuristan province, and several more in the central Ghazni province, it says.

There has been an upsurge in fighting in Afghanistan over the past year, with more than 3,000 people killed in 2007.

Patrol ambushed

In Helmand, the combined force was on a combat patrol in the Musa Qala district when the insurgents struck, the coalition said in a statement.

Aircraft were called in to fight the rebels, who attacked with mortars, rocket-propelled grenades and guns.

"In the fight that ensued, almost two dozen insurgents were killed," the statement said.

It said that no Afghan or international forces or civilians were killed during the latest clash.

The district has been the scene of some of the most hard fought and deadly battles in recent months.

Musa Qala - the main town in the area - has been a Taleban stronghold since October 2006, when UK troops withdrew from the town in a deal brokered by local tribal elders with the militants.

Taleban claims

In Nuristan, more than 20 militants were killed in an air and ground assault by US-led troops and Afghan security forces, the coalition said separately.

It said the operation targeted mountainous areas, used by insurgents to cross between Afghanistan and Pakistan.

One coalition soldier was injured during the operation.

A Taleban spokesman said that 40 civilians were killed in Nuristan, but the coalition said it had no reports of non-combatant casualties.

In Ghazni, the coalition said its targeted a militant accused of helping foreign fighters to move around Afghanistan.

It did not say if the militant was among those killed in the operation.

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