20 Militants Killed in Afghan-NATO Offensive Near KandaharBy VOA News
18 June 2008

Afghan National Army soldiers patrol on the outskirts of Kandahar city, southern Afghanistan, 18 Jun 2008Afghan officials say some 20 Taliban militants have been killed in the south of the country, where NATO and Afghan forces began a joint offensive against the insurgents.

The Afghan defense ministry said two Afghan army officers were also killed during the operation in the Arghandab district, north of Kandahar city. The joint military offensive, which involved helicopter gunships and heavy arms, was launched earlier today

The defense ministry said Tuesday that hundreds of Taliban fighters had infiltrated a number of villages near Kandahar, but the U.S. Defense Department later said that was an overstatement.

Thousands of people in the area have recently left their homes. NATO planes have been dropping leaflets urging people to stay indoors in case of fighting.

Also today, the British defense ministry said four of its soldiers were killed by a roadside blast Tuesday during an operation in southern Helmand province.

Arghandab district near Kandahar is a strategic hub long sought by the Taliban.

Nearly 1,200 inmates broke out of a Kandahar prison Friday with the help of a suicide bomber who blew open the prison gates. At least 400 suspected Taliban fighters were among the prisoners.

A U.S.-led invasion pushed the Taliban from power in 2001, but supporters of the extremist Islamist group remain a deadly threat to the tens of thousands of foreign forces in Afghanistan.

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