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Last Updated: Thursday, 13 July 2006, 07:19 GMT 08:19 UK
'Many die' in new Afghan fighting
US soldier in Afghanistan
Nato forces are battling Taleban fighters regularly in Helmand
At least 19 suspected Taleban militants have been killed in clashes in southern Afghanistan, officials say.

A Helmand province government spokesman said Taleban fighters attacked the village of Nawzad, targeting a garrison of Afghan and coalition troops.

Shopkeepers were surrounded and ordered to leave the centre of the village before the attack began, reports said.

Coalition forces launched air strikes, with reports saying 12 Taleban died in a car, with others killed elsewhere.

Long battle

The fighting, which lasted several hours, broke out on Wednesday morning, US military officials said.

Map of southern Afghanistan

"The Taleban surrounded this area, including a nearby bazaar, and told all their shopkeepers to leave before attacking the compound with small-arms fire and rocket-propelled grenades," Afghan spokesman Ghulam Muhiddin told the Associated Press news agency.

Seven attackers were killed and two injured in the initial fighting, with another 12 killed when coalition forces bombed a Taleban vehicle trying to leave the area, the officials said.

Violence in southern Afghanistan has risen sharply this year, the bloodiest since the Taleban were overthrown in 2001.

Coalition losses have been mounting, despite regular strikes against suspected militants.

More than 3,000 UK troops have been sent to Helmand since early May as part of a Nato operation to battle Taleban rebels and limit drug trafficking.

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