KABUL (AFP) — The US-led coalition said Saturday nearly 50 rebels were killed in new strikes against extremist militants, including in villages near Pakistan where insurgent leaders were said to have taken refuge.
The militants were targeted in three major engagements Friday, one of them in the central province of Ghazni where the Taliban last week released 19 South Korean aid workers they had held hostage for six weeks.
More than 20 were killed in an air and ground assault on compounds in northeastern mountains about six kilometres (four miles) from Pakistan, it said in a statement.
A coalition soldier was wounded and 11 suspects arrested in the raid in Nuristan province, it said.
The strike was launched after "credible intelligence" that villages in the area were being used by insurgent leaders travelling between Pakistan and Afghanistan.
A spokesman for the Taliban claimed that 40 civilians were killed but the coalition said it had no reports of casualties among non-combatants.
Almost two dozen more insurgents were killed the same day near a Taliban stronghold in the southern province of Helmand in days of heavy fighting last week, the coalition said separately.
Seven more militants were killed in fresh fighting Saturday in the same area, the volatile Musa Qala district.
In Ghazni meanwhile "several" more fighters were killed and six men detained in an operation aimed at a man accused of helping foreign fighters move around Afghanistan, a further statement said.
The Taliban are said to be aided by foreign militants, some trained at militant bases inside Pakistan, in their campaign against the Western-backed government of President Hamid Karzai.
They were removed from government in a US-led invasion weeks after the September 11, 2001 attacks.
The hardliners killed two of their South Korean hostages before freeing 21 more, 19 of them last week.
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