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Last Updated: Friday, 29 August, 2003, 16:21 GMT 17:21 UK
Militants clash with Afghan troops
By Ian McWilliam
BBC correspondent in Kabul

A Canadian battle group arrives at a suspected Taleban village on the lookout for hostile fire
International troops regularly search out Taleban forces
Reports from southern Afghanistan say three government soldiers have been killed by militants near the southern border town of Spin Boldak.

A police chief there said suspected Taleban guerrillas had killed the soldiers after attacking checkpoints near the Pakistani border.

The reports come as a government offensive against a large force of suspected Taleban continues in the nearby province of Zabul.

The Afghan border town of Spin Boldak has been the focus of Taleban attacks before.

It lies just across the border from the Pakistani town of Chaman, where former Taleban leaders are reported to meet openly.

Pakistan connection

Afghan officials say many attacks in the border areas are being orchestrated from Pakistan, where many Taleban and al-Qaeda leaders fled after their defeat in Afghanistan.

Pakistan says it is doing all it can to police the border, but there is a good deal of sympathy for the conservative Taleban among the Pashtun tribes who live in both countries.

These latest attacks come as Afghan forces are engaged in one of their biggest recent offensives in Zabul province, which also lies in Afghanistan's troubled south-east.

Numbers are difficult to confirm, but reports say hundreds of Taleban have gathered in a remote mountain district, from where they have launched a series of attacks against government targets.

Clean-up

Several hundred Afghan soldiers, supported by a small number of American troops, have been hunting the militants over the past week.

The Taleban are said to be in fortified hideouts in a narrow mountain gorge.

American air power has been called in repeatedly to bomb their positions.

Casualties are impossible to confirm, but an American spokesman said earlier in the week that at least 14 Taleban had been killed.

The remote and rugged terrain operates in favour of the guerrillas, so Kabul and the Americans now find themselves in the same position as many earlier Afghan administrations - confronted by anti-government fighters in the eastern borderlands who are almost impossible to eliminate.


SEE ALSO:
Taleban killed in US bombing
25 Aug 03  |  South Asia
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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