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US, Afghan Forces Kill 14 Militants in Kandahar Engagement - 2003-08-25

U.S. forces say they engaged insurgents in southeastern Afghanistan Monday afternoon, killing at least 14 militants. The battle caps a day of coalition victories, after a period of setbacks.

Afghan government troops, aided by U.S. Special Forces, engaged the militants in Kandahar Province, once the stronghold of the ousted Taleban regime.

U.S. military spokesman in Afghanistan Colonel Rodney Davis said the coalition suffered no casualties in the battle, which included fighter and bomber air-strikes.

He said coalition forces are engaged in a wide offensive across the region. "This engagement is part of an ongoing operation referred to as Operation Warrior Sweep, which has been in progress for over a month now," he said.

Earlier in the day, local officials in Zabul Province had reported a coalition attack on militants there, saying up to 50 militants were killed.

Fighters loyal to the Taleban, along with members of the al-Qaida network and forces loyal to renegade Afghan warlord Gulbuddin Hekmatyar, have recently increased their guerrilla-style attacks throughout eastern Afghanistan.

The insurgent attacks killed close to 100 Afghans last week, including a number of local police officers.

In one recent incident in Paktika Province, the militants took over a police station for several hours, killing the officers inside before fleeing into the mountains.

Afghan Foreign Ministry spokesman Omar Samad told VOA Monday that government forces have also arrested at least 40 suspected militants in Paktika. "The suspects have been apprehended with the help of the local population and local authorities. They are thought to be in one way or another associated with the remnants of Taleban and al-Qaida," he said.

Mr. Samad says authorities are still questioning the suspects and have not yet decided on how many will be charged.