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Last Updated: Monday, 25 August, 2003, 21:11 GMT 22:11 UK
Taleban killed in US bombing
US special forces in Afghanistan
US forces have been helping Afghan ground troops mop up the area
A joint Afghan-US military operation in south-eastern Afghanistan has left a number of Taleban fighters dead, US and local Afghan officials in the region say.

A spokesman for the governor of Afghanistan's Zabul province, Ahmadullah Watan Dost, said Afghan troops had overrun a Taleban base after US forces bombed it on Monday.

He claimed that as many as 40 or 50 fighters were killed, but a statement by the US military from Bagram airbase put the number at 14.

There has been no independent confirmation of the deaths.

US and Afghan sources also disagreed about the exact location of the operation.

The BBC's Ian McWilliam in Kabul says militants based in Zabul are suspected of trying to destabilise both that province and neighbouring Uruzgan province.

Our correspondent says that this appears to be one of the biggest concentration of Taleban fighters in recent months.

Big setback

Mr Dost said the Taleban base was in the Dozi area of Zabul's Dai Chopan district.

The statement by the US military said F-16 fighters and A-10 aircraft attacked enemy forces in Kandahar province.

However, experts say that the statement appeared to be referring to the same battle, as Kandahar province borders Zabul to the south.

Dai Chopan police chief Juman Khan told Reuters up to 600 Taleban fighters were thought to be in the area after launching attacks on Friday and Saturday, including an ambush that left five Afghan government soldiers dead.

He said the ground force of 450 Afghans and about two dozen Americans who mopped up the base were holding about 40 people.

"The rest of Taleban, I think, have fled," Mr Khan said.

He said it was thought the Taleban group was being headed by senior leader Mullah Dadullah. There was no indication of his whereabouts.

Kabul has repeatedly said that Taleban insurgents are planning their attacks and getting money and weapons from their supporters based in Pakistan.

Pakistan says it is doing all it can to control the unruly border area, but it says the two countries must work together to contain the problem.

About 40 Taleban fighters were killed near the Pakistani border in June, government forces have said.

About 100 people have been killed in the past two weeks as US-led forces continue to hunt remnants of the regime they ousted after the 11 September attacks in New York and Washington.


SEE ALSO:
Pakistan urges closer Afghan ties
22 Aug 03  |  South Asia
In the shadow of the Taleban
20 Aug 03  |  South Asia
Taleban 'ambush Afghan police'
19 Aug 03  |  South Asia
Pakistan groups 'help Taleban'
19 Aug 03  |  South Asia
'Taleban' storm Afghan security post
18 Aug 03  |  South Asia


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