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7 Taliban militants killed in Afghanistan

world Updated: Oct 08, 2009 22:18 IST

Afghan and NATO-led forces killed at least 27 Taliban militants in separate clashes in the south of the country without loss, the Afghan defence ministry said Thursday in a statement.

The clashes, in Helmand and Gomal provinces, came on the day that US operations in Afghanistan entered their ninth year, an anniversary marked by the Taliban leadership with a statement that they had "no agenda to harm any country", but that they were prepared for a "prolonged war".

Afghan army commandos and US Special Forces in Helmand on Wednesday targeted militants who were also "involved in drug smuggling", the Afghan defence ministry said in a statement.

The joint forces killed 17 militants and arrested three others, the statement said, adding that the forces also seized a large cache of drugs and destroyed it on the spot.

Ten other militants were killed and five were wounded after they attacked a convoy of Afghan and international forces in Gomal district of the south-eastern province of Paktika Wednesday, Hamidullah Zewak, spokesman for the provincial governor said.

He said no Afghan or international troops were killed in the gunbattle.

In a statement to mark the anniversary, Taliban militants said it had no intention to harm any other country in the world, including those in Europe, a move that could apparently mean that the militant group is trying to distance themselves from Al Qaeda network, which has declared a global jihad against the US and its allies.

"We did not have any agenda to harm other countries including Europe nor we have such agenda today," the statement, which was sent by email to DPA Thursday, said.

The statement however warned that the militants would continue their war against more than 100,000 international troops in the country until the Western countries withdraw their forces from Afghanistan.

"Still if you want to turn the country of the proud and pious Afghans into a colony, then know that we have an unwavering determination and have braced for a prolonged war," it said.

Eight years on, the Taliban militants, who were driven from power by the US-led military invasion, claim to be more powerful than ever, while the support for Afghan war is increasingly unpopular in NATO countries.

In a candid assessment of the counterinsurgency effort in the country, the new NATO commander, US general Stanley McChrystal, has bluntly warned that the war in Afghanistan could fail unless additional troops, perhaps up to 40,000, are sent to the country to reverse the Taliban's gains.

While deployment of additional forces from European countries seems unlikely, US President Barack Obama, who already sent 21,000 US troops to Afghanistan earlier this year, has yet to publicly respond to his ground commander's demand.