Afghan and NATO forces using air power cleared Taliban militants from villages near the strategic city of Kandahar on Thursday, killing or wounding hundreds of rebels, a governor said.
Kandahar provincial governor Asadullah Khaled said troops had driven all insurgents from the southern district of Arghandab, a day after around 1,000 soldiers launched a huge offensive against the hardline rebels.
The NATO-led International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) did not comment on the governor's statement, but earlier said there had been only minor incidents so far, with many of the rebels apparently refusing to fight.
“All the area is cleared of Taliban. There are hundreds of Taliban killed and wounded, the wounded are captured,” Khaled told a news conference. “The dead are mostly Pakistanis,” he said, adding that remaining militants had fled to two nearby districts and search operations by Afghan and Canadian NATO troops were continuing.
President Hamid Karzai, under pressure after a mass jailbreak by Taliban militants in Kandahar last week, caused a storm at the weekend by saying Afghanistan would be justified in attacking rebels on Pakistani soil.