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Afghan and NATO Forces Surround Taliban-Held Town; 15 Die in Fighting

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Afghanistan's Defense Ministry says an operation to reclaim the Taliban-held town of Musa Qala in southern Helmand province has killed 15 people, including a NATO soldier and two children.

General Mohammad Zahir Azimi, A ministry spokesman, says ground troops who surrounded the town late Friday killed 12 suspected militants. Musa Qala has been under Taliban control for most of this year.

The Afghan spokesman says the two children who died died were in a vehicle that a Taliban patrol was using as a shield.

The British Ministry of Defense said the NATO soldier who died in the operation was a Briton.

Elsewhere in Helmand province, police say, Taliban militants hanged a 12-year-old boy after accusing him of being a spy.

U.S. military officials say air support for the operation in Musa Qala killed several Taliban militants on Friday. One of the dead militants is said to be a senior commander involved in several attacks against U.S. and NATO forces in the region.

Taliban militants overran Musa Qala in February, after British troops withdrew and handed over security responsibilities to local elders.

Separately, NATO foreign ministers are discussing the appointment of an international "super envoy" to Afghanistan. The envoy would help to coordinate better U.N. and NATO civilian and military efforts within the country.

Some information for this report was provided by Reuters, AP and AFP.

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