KABUL (AP) – Fighting overnight between international troops and Taliban militants in central Afghanistan has left as many as 22 insurgents dead, police said Friday.
The clashes came as Britain’s Defense Ministry announced two more deaths, bring the country’s toll to nine dead in southern Afghanistan in as many days.
The ministry said the two soldiers died in separate incidents Thursday. Britain’s 8,000 troops have been joined in southern Helmand province by thousands of U.S. Marines, who launched a major offensive in the province last week. It is aimed at uprooting Taliban insurgents before elections planned for next month.
In the clash in central Ghazni province, police chief Khail Boz Sherzai said the militants were killed in an airstrike.
But the U.S.-led coalition gave a conflicting account of the fighting.
A U.S. military statement only said that “several” militants died, and spokeswoman Capt. Elizabeth Mathias said the toll given by police sounded high. She also said there were no airstrikes. The clash began as Afghan and international troops pursued militants in Giro district. Militants open fired and the troops fired back, Mathias said.
The international troops also confiscated grenades, guns and ammunition found in a weapons cache during the operation, which the military said disrupted an insurgent cell. There were no reports of casualties among the international and Afghan troops.
Meanwhile, the Interior Ministry said two police officers were killed by a roadside bomb in southern Kandahar district on Thursday, near the Pakistani border. Five others were wounded in the blast, the ministry said in a statement.