Afghan officials say local and U.S.-led forces killed 41 Taleban insurgents during a fierce gun battle in southern Afghanistan that also left six policemen dead. Sporadic fighting continued Saturday, more than 24 hours after the operation was launched.
The exchange was one of the most intense in months and comes amid a sharp increase in insurgent activity.
The governor of Kandahar, Assadullah Khalid, said Saturday fighting broke out after Afghan security forces raided a suspected Taleban hideout in the southern Afghan province.
U.S. military spokesman Lieutenant Mike Cody says coalition helicopters provided air support during the attack.
"Late yesterday coalition Apache helicopters fired rockets in support of the forces on the ground," he said.
Provincial governor Khalid told reporters the assault began early Friday and was based on intelligence reports that the Taleban rebels were planning an attack on Kandahar.
He said 13 suspected Taleban rebels were also arrested Friday.
Government officials say the main operation is complete but security forces are combing the area for any insurgents who may have slipped away Friday night. Local residents reported isolated gun-battles in the area continued Saturday.
Kandahar is a traditional Taleban base and the province remains a major stronghold for the insurgency.
The Taleban recently announced a new spring offensive and attacks on government and coalition forces, including several suicide bombings, have intensified.
On Saturday afternoon a Taleban ambush killed a district governor in Helmand province, west of Kandahar.
Afghan and coalition forces have launched Operation Mountain Lion targeting insurgent positions. The mission is reportedly the largest operation in the country since a U.S.-led coalition first ousted the Taleban in 2001.