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US, Afghan Forces Target Taleban Militants in Eastern Afghanistan

U.S. and Afghan forces in Eastern Afghanistan have killed at least six suspected insurgents. Violent attacks are on the rise throughout much of Afghanistan, including areas previously considered relatively secure. From Islamabad, VOA correspondent Benjamin Sand reports.

Fighting erupted early Wednesday in the mountains outside the city of Jalalabad in Nangarhar province. U.S. military spokesman Major Chris Belcher says allied forces returned fire from local insurgents.

"Credible intelligence led the forces to the compound suspected of housing local Taleban fighters," he said. "As the combined force approached the compound, they took fire and quickly responded, returning fire."

He says six men were killed, with four militants detained for questioning.

In a separate operation Afghan and coalition forces in the neighboring Khost province arrested three suspected al-Qaida militants during a raid Tuesday morning.

Both provinces share a border with Pakistan's remote tribal region, where U.S. and Afghan officials say pro-Taleban and al-Qaida militants have established strategic bases.

U.S.-led coalition forces have carried out a series of raids on suspected Taleban targets on the Afghan side of the border in recent weeks, trying to pre-empt a much-anticipated Taleban offensive.

The operations appear to be working and so far there has been a limited increase in militant activity in the region.

Elsewhere however, there is growing evidence that anti-government militants are on the move.

Afghan officials say there has already been a rise in the number of indirect attacks on foreign and Afghan forces this year.

A bomb in the southern province of Uruzgan killed at least four policemen Wednesday morning. A similar bomb killed another two private security guards a day earlier in nearby Helmand province, deep inside the Taleban's traditional stronghold.

Violence is also increasing in the previously stable northern provinces where the Taleban has historically been relatively weak.

There have been at least three suicide bomb attacks in the north in the past two weeks. The Taleban has claimed responsibility for all of them.

Speaking to reporters in Kabul Wednesday, NATO spokeswoman Lt. Col. Angela Billings said more than 500 forces are taking part in a major counter-insurgency operation in the southern province of Kandahar.

"ISAF and Afghan national security forces continue to prosecute our mission, continue to provide for security despite whatever the Taleban extremists may have planned themselves," she said.

Afghan soldiers, along with the NATO-led International Security Assistance Force (ISAF), launched the fresh actions earlier this week.