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Last Updated: Sunday, 28 October 2007, 08:10 GMT
Battle 'kills dozens of Taleban'
About 80 Taleban fighters have been killed in clashes with forces from the US-led coalition in Afghanistan's Helmand province, officials say.

A six-hour battle took place near the Taleban-controlled town of Musa Qala, a coalition statement said.

A joint coalition-Afghan patrol called in air strikes after it came under fire from rockets and gunfire, with bombs hitting a trench full of Taleban.

There has been no independent confirmation of the numbers killed.

The BBC's Alastair Leithead in Kabul says the figures are rough estimates made by troops on the ground directly after the battle.

While the coalition has high-tech air surveillance equipment, the area is covered with lush vegetation close to a river, so accurate battle damage assessments, as the military call them, are not totally reliable.

And establishing the number of casualties later is often impossible, as the bodies of insurgents are usually either buried soon after the battle or taken away, our correspondent says.

There were also reports from one of the villages where fighting took place that 15-to-20 local people were killed.

Again, there was no independent confirmation.

The coalition said it had no reports of "non-combatant injuries or damage to property".

Major battles

Coalition forces came under ambush near Musa Qala, an area which has seen fierce fighting between Taleban and coalition or Nato forces in recent months.

"The combined patrol immediately returned fire, manoeuvred, and employed close air support, resulting in almost seven dozen Taleban fighters killed during a six-hour engagement," a coalition statement said.

In September, international forces launched a major offensive in Helmand province to push out the Taleban.

The coalition has claimed more than 200 militants have been killed in fighting around Musa Qala since then.

British troops left the town late last year following an agreement that handed over security to the town's elders.

The Taleban took over the town in February.

But British troops have been gradually pushing back up the main Helmand river valley, forcing the Taleban out of some of their strongholds.

The area is the centre of Afghanistan's illegal opium poppy cultivation.

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