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US coalition says 30 militants killed in battle

world Updated: Aug 23, 2008 13:40 IST
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The U.S.-led coalition said it has killed more than 30 insurgents in a battle in eastern Afghanistan, fighters an Afghan governor said were responsible for an attack that killed 10 French troops this week.

Officials on Thursday also announced the deaths of six NATO soldiers in two attacks.

Lutfullah Mashal, the governor of Laghman province, said coalition bombs targeted fighters on the border of Laghman and Kabul provinces. He said the insurgents were fleeing the valley where Monday's attack on the French took place.

Mashal said on Wednesday night's airstrike was not directly in retaliation for the French ambush because the targeted militants had been involved in "repeated attacks" in the area. Lt. Col. Rumi Nielson-Green, the top spokeswoman for the U.S.-led coalition, said the coalition was not "completely certain" that the militants were directly involved in the attack on the French. "They were certainly at a minimum complicit," she said. "It doesn't matter if they were or weren't involved in an attack today, yesterday or on Sept. 11, 2001. We seek out terrorists and we will give them the option to be captured or killed or possibly flee." Coalition troops and Afghan commandos were conducting a search operation in Laghman when militants engaged the troops in a battle on Wednesday, the coalition said in a statement.

More than 30 militants were killed and one militant was wounded and taken for treatment after the clash, the coalition said. It said 200 civilians fled the area before the airstrike. Afghan officials said about 20 civilians were wounded in the fighting. Mashal said it was not clear if the coalition bombs wounded the Afghans or if Taliban fighters had.

Abdullah Fahim, spokesman for the provincial Health Ministry, said 21 civilians were wounded, including five children. Laghman deputy police chief Najibullah Hotak said one civilian died in the fighting and 20 were wounded.

Afghanistan is experiencing a surge in violence despite ongoing Western efforts to stabilize the country.

Three Polish soldiers were killed on Wednesday when a roadside bomb exploded in the central province of Ghazni, Polish Defense Ministry spokesman Jacek Poplawski said on Thursday. A fourth soldier was wounded in the blast.

In the southern Kandahar province, meanwhile, a roadside blast on Wednesday killed three Canadian soldiers, Canada's Department of National Defense said.

This year will likely be the deadliest for international troops since the 2001 invasion. Some 184 international soldiers, including about 96 Americans, have died in Afghanistan this year, according to an Associated Press count. At that pace, the toll should far surpass the record 222 international troop deaths in 2007. In all, more than 3,400 people _ mostly militants _ have been killed in insurgency-related violence this year, according to figures from Western and Afghan officials.