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Hundreds of insurgents killed in Afghan operations: Govt

A series of Afghan army operations to clean up insurgent hotspots ahead of August elections has resulted in 248 militants being killed along with 17 soldiers, the defence ministry, says defence ministry sources.

world Updated: May 31, 2009 21:35 IST

A series of Afghan army operations to clean up insurgent hotspots ahead of August elections has resulted in 248 militants being killed along with 17 soldiers, the defence ministry said on Sunday.

The operations were rolled out in five eastern and southern provinces 10 days ago and are continuing, ministry spokesman General Mohammad Zahir Azimi told reporters.

"During these operations, 248 enemy were killed and dozens of others have been wounded," Azimi said.

"In the same period, 17 brave service members have been martyred and 57 have been wounded, and four are missing," he said.

The operations were in the Helmand, Uruzgan, Ghazni, Farah and Paktika provinces, all areas which have a heavy Taliban influence.

"We are trying to use the available capacities of the national forces and NATO and coalition forces, and the troops that will be deployed in the future, to create an atmosphere where our people could vote freely," Azimi said.

The multinational NATO-led force has secured thousands of extra soldiers for the August 20 polling day.

The force already has nearly 60,000 troops in Afghanistan to help the government fight a Taliban insurgency and build its own capacity.

The elections, the second-ever presidential vote in Afghanistan, are a key test of international efforts to install democracy in a land beset by war, coups and assassinations.
The Taliban have called for a boycott of the polls and there are fears that the insurgents will step up attacks to disrupt polls or keep voters at home.

A candidate for the provincial council elections, which will be held at the same time as the presidential election, was killed last week in a bomb attack.