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7 Taliban rebels killed in Afghanistan

Violence has escalated in Afghanistan as Taliban-led rebels have stepped up attacks, particularly in their former southern heartland.

india Updated: Jul 26, 2006 17:02 IST

US-led coalition troops killed seven suspected Taliban militants in southern Afghanistan as Australia announced Wednesday that six of its special forces soldiers were wounded in the same area earlier this month.

Authorities in northern Afghanistan on Wednesday questioned four Afghans in connection with the killing of a Canadian reconstruction worker, whose bullet-ridden body was found earlier this week.

Gunmen on Wednesday also killed an Afghan worker and wounded three others who had been helping build a road to a US-led coalition base in the south of the country.

Violence has escalated sharply in Afghanistan this year as Taliban-led rebels have stepped up attacks, particularly in their former southern heartland, drawing a tough response from Afghan and foreign forces.

Militants attacked a coalition patrol with rocket-propelled grenades and machine guns Tuesday, prompting soldiers to respond with heavy machine-gun fire and kill seven insurgents in southern Helmand province's Garmser district, a coalition statement said. There were no military causalities.

Separately, six Australian special forces soldiers have been wounded during heavy fighting in mid-July in southern Afghanistan, said Brig Gus Gilmore, spokesman for the Australian Defence Force.

He would not disclose the exact location or time of the incident. Gilmore said the soldiers were taking part in a military operation.

One of the six soldiers has returned to Australia for treatment, while the others suffered minor wounds. Australia has 300 troops in a special forces task group operating in Uruzgan province.

A 200-member provincial reconstruction team is to deploy to Afghanistan this month.

More than 10,000 US-led troops have fanned out across southern Afghanistan in an attempt to break the Taliban's hold on the region, as NATO prepares to take over command of security operations there.

The coalition says more than 600 suspected Taliban militants have been killed since Operation Mountain Thrust started June 10.

The slain Canadian reconstruction worker, identified as Mike Frastacky, was found dead in an Afghan national's house in northern Baghlan province's Nahrin district Monday, said Mohammed Halam Rask, the province's governor.

Frastacky, who was shot three times in the chest, was reportedly an independent aid worker involved in building an area school. Gen Eawaz Khan, provincial police chief, said there were no clear murder suspects or motives.

Four people, including a translator, bodyguard, owner of the house where Frastacky's body was found and a neighbour have been detained for questioning, Khan said.

In southern Zabul province on Wednesday, gunmen ambushed and killed one Afghan worker and wounded three others as they drove to work on a road being built between the town of Qalat to a new US air base just outside town, said Noor Mohammed Paktin, provincial police chief.