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Up to 100 Afghan Militants Killed in Operation 'Mountain Viper' - 2003-09-05

The U.S. military says a joint operation with Afghan troops has so far killed up to 100 militants allegedly supporting Afghanistan's former Taleban regime. Despite the victory, the fight against the Taleban loyalists is by no means over.

The U.S. military says between 72 and 100 Taleban fighters were killed during the past week during operation "Mountain Viper."

The operation is taking place around the mountain town of Daichopan in the southeastern province of Zabul.

Speaking from Afghanistan, a U.S. military spokesman, Sergeant Major Harry Sarles, says coalition forces suffered no killed or missing in the fighting, but sustained several light injuries since the operation began on August 30.

The offensive has involved Afghan troops and U.S. Special Forces and mountain units. U.S. jets and helicopters have provided air support.

The operation follows a series of fatal attacks on Afghan police and other targets in the area, which the Afghan transitional government blames on the Taleban remnants.

The Taleban forces are also said to enjoy the support of troops loyal to Gulbuddin Hekmatyar, a former Afghan prime minister now leading a guerrilla-style insurgency against the current government.

Operation Mountain Viper complements a similar operation, called "Warrior Sweep," against militants in provinces farther north, including Paktia and Paktika.

Sergeant Major Sarles says despite the coalition's recent success, the insurgents are not yet defeated.

"I can tell you that there are still anti-coalition forces out there, and we're still looking for them, and when we find them, we'll catch them," he said.

The strict Islamist Taleban were driven from power in 2001, ousted by Afghan opposition troops and U.S. forces.

U.S. opposition to the Taleban stemmed from the regime's sheltering of the terrorist al-Qaida network, blamed for the deadly September 11, 2001 attacks on the United States.