Page last updated at 10:57 GMT, Sunday, 12 October 2008 11:57 UK

Taleban killed in Afghan battles

British troops in Helmand province, Afghanistan, 4/10/08
Nato-led troops battle almost daily with Taleban fighters in Helmand

Dozens of Taleban militants have been killed by security forces in fighting in southern Afghanistan, according to Afghan and British officials.

The militants died in a battle with Afghan and Nato-led forces on the outskirts of Lashkar Gah, capital of Helmand province.

A spokesman for Helmand's governor said the militants were trying to attack the city when security forces hit back.

There were conflicting claims about the extent of the Taleban losses.

Afghan officials said 130 Taleban had been killed, but a spokesman for the British army told the BBC the number was closer to 50.

Three sides

Daud Ahmadi, spokesman for Helmand's governor, told the Associated Press news agency that the Taleban attacked the city from three sides, using rockets and other heavy weapons.

But they were pushed back by the security forces, he said, adding that there were no casualties among Afghan or Nato troops. .

Afghanistan map

The Nato-led International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) confirmed that they attacked the insurgents, who were seen gathering on the outskirts of the city, prior to launching a mortar attack.

"During this counter-attack, ISAF forces successfully conducted an air strike in which multiple enemy forces were killed," a ISAF statement said.

Elsewhere in Helmand, Mr Ahmadi said another dozens of militants had been killed in a three-day battle which ended on Saturday, after foreign and Afghan forces retook the centre of Nad Ali district, which had been held by Taleban fighters.

Rape and kidnap

Meanwhile, British former shadow home secretary David Davis has said the UK is facing disaster in Afghanistan unless it changes its strategy in the country.

The senior Conservative has just returned from a visit to Helmand province.

He told BBC One's Andrew Marr Show: "If we don't change our strategy I think we are facing a disaster in the longer run.

"Firstly, the Afghans think we're losing. Whether we are or not, that's what they think. Secondly, we are effectively defending a government which is weak, corrupt and ineffective. Apart from its warlord allies, it doesn't extend a rifle shot beyond Kabul in terms of its power."

Mr Davis said more than half of the Afghan national police were drug addicts, a significant number were corrupt, and the force was known for committing rape and kidnap.

"All those things mean you've got a sort of banditry-in-uniform. The truth is we're not seen by the ordinary Afghans as the liberators that we really are," he said.

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