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Last Updated: Wednesday, 20 September 2006, 16:56 GMT 17:56 UK
'Militants' die in Afghan clash
Nato operation in Helmand
Nato-led troops in southern Afghanistan say they have killed up to 10 militants in fresh fighting in Helmand province.

A statement from the International Security Assistance Force (Isaf) said its soldiers suffered no casualties in the clash in Garmser district.

The latest violence came a day after Nato's top general in Afghanistan said the Taleban had been "comprehensively defeated" in nearby Kandahar province.

Lt Gen David Richard made his remarks despite three suicide blasts on Monday.

About 20 people, including four Canadian soldiers, died in the bombings.

One was in Kandahar province, where Nato claimed its success, while the others were in the capital, Kabul, and Herat in the west.

Air support

Isaf said its troops were on a training mission with Afghan troops and police in Garmser district when they spotted militants carrying a heavy machine gun.

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"Isaf forces engaged the insurgents with machine gun fire and close air support," the statement said.

"Battle damage assessment indicates that three insurgent vehicles were destroyed with up to 10 insurgents killed. There were no Isaf casualties."

In a clash in Ghazni province in the east, nine Taleban were killed and 13 injured, police said. The Taleban said they had killed five policemen, but officials said only two officers were injured.

Fighting has raged across southern Afghanistan this year, where Nato has taken over from US-led troops in an attempt to extend the authority of the Afghan government.

Hundreds of people have been killed in the violence, most of them suspected militants

Afghan troops and police have also died, and a number of civilian deaths have been reported.

Canadian and British forces have suffered heavy casualties among foreign forces.

Taleban 'underestimated'

On Sunday Nato said that at least 400 Taleban fighters had been killed in a two-week operation codenamed Medusa, the biggest offensive since Nato took over in southern Afghanistan from US-led forces at the end of July.

The deaths cannot be independently verified.

"We have comprehensively defeated the Taleban in their biggest defeat since 2001," Gen Richards told reporters after visiting Panjwayi district in Kandahar province, which was at the centre of the operation.

"It should go down in history and it could go down in history as the turning point in this campaign."

But he added that he wanted more troops to "ram home the advantage".

Two other major operations - one Nato-led in western Farah province and one US-led in eastern Afghanistan - are currently under way.

UK Defence Secretary Des Browne acknowledged on Tuesday that the strength of the Taleban had been underestimated, but insisted Nato's mission would succeed.




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