KABUL (AFP) — US-led air strikes killed 22 Taliban militants who attacked two towns in Afghanistan with rockets on Wednesday, while two more international soldiers died in explosions, officials said.
Eastern and southern Afghanistan have seen a spike in violence along the troubled border with Pakistan in June, making this month one of the bloodiest in the six-year Taliban insurgency.
Warplanes from the US-led coalition bombed militants in eastern Paktika province overnight after the latest in a series of large-scale rebel assaults in the region, a coalition statement said.
Rebels armed with rocket launchers and machineguns attacked the province's Sarobi district centre late Tuesday but were pushed back by Afghan forces, the statement and a spokesman for the coalition said.
Militants later attacked the district centre of neighbouring Gomal, forcing the Afghan security forces to call in coalition warplanes for help, the spokesman said.
"When coalition air support arrived, the 22 militants who attacked the (Gomal) district centre were positively identified and killed," the coalition statement said.
In the neighbouring province of Paktia, Taliban fighters attacked another district centre, triggering clashes that ended without casualties, the coalition spokesman said.
A militant who was trying to lay a mine on a road was killed when the device exploded prematurely in another district in Paktia, provincial government spokesman Rohullah Samoon said.
"Several" other militants were killed during a coalition operation in the southern province of Helmand, the country's biggest opium-growing region, the coalition said in a separate statement. A dozen other rebels were detained.
The operation targeted a "militant leader known to conduct financing operations, facilitate foreign fighters and smuggle narcotics in the area," the statement said.
Several weapons, suicide-vests and a cache of drugs were found and destroyed, it added.
Also in Helmand, a soldier in the US-led coalition was killed and three others were wounded when their vehicle hit a roadside bomb on Wednesday, although it was not clear if they were taking part in the same operation.
The nationality of the casualties was not revealed, but the vast majority of soldiers in the 22,000-strong coalition are American.
Separately, a British soldier serving with a separate NATO security force was killed in a bomb blast in Helmand on Tuesday, the British Ministry of Defence said Wednesday.
June has been a deadly month for foreign soldiers, with four killed in the past two days. Another British soldier was shot dead during combat operations in Helmand on Tuesday.
Thirty-six of the 103 soldiers killed in Afghanistan this year died since the beginning of this month, according to an AFP tally based on official figures.
Taliban militants riding motorbikes attacked a civilian convoy of trucks supplying international forces' bases in Wardak province on Tuesday, torching at least six vehicles and damaging 40 others, authorities said.
The violence came as the US commander in the region said attacks by Taliban militants in eastern Afghanistan were up 40 percent in the first five months of 2008, compared with the same period last year.
Eastern Afghanistan has seen much of the violence in the past week.
NATO warplanes killed 15 militants in Paktia on Tuesday, an Afghan official said, while the coalition said Monday that 55 militants died in fighting in Paktika over the weekend.
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