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Last Updated: Monday, 22 August 2005, 16:41 GMT 17:41 UK
Afghan raids 'kill 100 militants'
US troops in latest Afghan operations
US troops in "Operation Whalers". Photo: US Dept of Defence
More than 100 suspected militants have been killed in the past three weeks in operations in southern and eastern Afghanistan, the US military says.

More than 40 were killed in operations in eastern Kunar province, where the US lost 19 personnel in June.

Another 65 died in fighting in southern Zabul province, the US military said.

The Taleban have stepped up violence ahead of next month's parliamentary elections but on Monday said they would not attack polling stations.

On Sunday, suspected insurgents killed four US soldiers with a roadside bomb in Daychopan, in Zabul.

SEAL deaths

The coalition forces' "Operation Whalers" in Kunar province was launched to "clear the way for successful elections", the US military said.

"We had over 29 separate engagements with enemy forces that resulted in over 40 enemy killed in action and many others wounded," said Lt Col Jerry O'Hara.

QUICK GUIDE

Maj Gen Jason Kamiya said insurgents had a choice of joining the democratic process or "to continue to live in the shadow of continued military confrontation, violence, death and defeat".

It is not possible to independently verify the US figures and the Taleban have not yet commented on them.

Kunar's mountainous region has witnessed several deadly attacks on US forces in recent weeks by suspected insurgents who have vowed to derail the 18 September poll.

In June, three Navy SEALs were killed in fighting in Kunar and a helicopter sent to rescue them went down, possibly under enemy fire, killing 16 more US personnel.

The BBC's Andrew North in Kabul says since then US and Afghan forces have been concentrating on Kunar, trying to root out insurgents.

However, sources have told the BBC that al-Qaeda supporters are still active in the area, in some cases using videos of insurgent attacks in Iraq to try to recruit people.

But our correspondent says the latest statement from the Taleban's purported spokesman, Latifullah Hakimi, that they will hold off from attacks on polling stations may afford some comfort as that is largely what happened at last year's presidential elections.

A US spokesman was cautious but said he hoped "this was a sign of better things to come".

On Sunday, Latifullah Hakimi, said Taleban fighters had detonated the roadside bomb that killed four US soldiers in Zabul. Three US soldiers were also hurt.

Also on Sunday a second bomb hit a US embassy convoy near Kabul, injuring two officials.

The Taleban claimed responsibility for that attack too although their statements could not be independently verified.

The US now has about 20,000 troops in Afghanistan and has lost close to 200 since Operation Enduring Freedom began following the ousting of the Taleban regime in late 2001.


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