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20 Taliban, five policemen dead: police

Extremist unrest leaves 5 policemen and nearly 2 dozen Taliban fighters dead, as Britain reaches the grim landmark of 100 soldiers killed in Afghanistan.
By HT Correspondent | AFP, Kabul
UPDATED ON JUN 09, 2008 08:23 PM IST

Extremist unrest left five Afghan policemen and nearly two dozen Taliban fighters dead on Monday, officials said, as Britain reached the grim landmark of 100 soldiers killed in Afghanistan.

Military aircraft from the NATO force were called in overnight after insurgents were seen gathering in the eastern province of Paktia, deputy provincial police chief Ghulam Dastgir told AFP.

"NATO planes and artillery targeted them and killed 20 Taliban. Several others were wounded," Dastgir said.

NATO's International Security Assistance Force in the capital Kabul could not immediately provide information, but an ISAF worker in the region confirmed the incident.

Separately, a roadside bomb blew up a police vehicle in the central province of Ghazni on early Monday, killing a highway commander and two of his men, provincial deputy police chief Mohammad Zaman told AFP.

"The attack occurred as the commander, Abdul Qayoum, was returning to Ghazni town from the remote district of Rashidan, which has not had a police commander since Taliban militants took control of the district headquarters in May," Zaman said.

The rebels were kicked out less than 24 hours later, but they took with them the administration and police officials. Authorities said they suspected the officials had been working with the Taliban.

"Qayoum and two other policemen were killed in the blast and their vehicle was destroyed," Zaman said.

Ghazni, roughly halfway between Kabul and Kandahar, has become one of the provinces most affected by Taliban attacks over the past year.

Police also reported Monday that Taliban rebels had attacked a post in the central province of Ghor on Sunday, sparking a gunfight that left two policemen and three rebels dead.

Another policeman and six of the attackers were wounded in the fighting, provincial police chief Shahjahan Noori told AFP.

Meanwhile, insurgents in the northeastern province of Nuristan attacked a supply helicopter as it came into land at an ISAF base, the force said in a statement.

"The base came under attack from rocket-propelled grenades and small arms fire immediately following the aircraft landing there to drop off supplies," it said.

"The soldiers on the base returned fire with small arms, mortars, artillery and close air support, causing the insurgents to break off their attack."

The chopper was damaged but no one on the base was hurt, it said.

The Taliban claimed responsibility, the latest in a string of attacks on helicopters in the country.

The Taliban were removed from government in a US-led invasion in late 2001 and are waging an insurgency that has gained pace the last two years.

There are nearly 70,000 foreign soldiers from more than 40 nations helping the growing Afghan army and police force tackle the insurgents and rising crime.

Three British soldiers were killed Sunday while on a routine foot patrol near their base in the southern province of Helmand, the British defence ministry said.

Their deaths raised the overall number of fatalities among British troops since 2001 to 100.

Britain paid tribute to the troops on Monday, with Prime Minister Gordon Brown saying that the sacrifice was not in vain and was helping to turn Afghanistan from a lawless state into an emerging democracy.

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