Hundreds of Taleban fighters and coalition forces clashed in southern Afghanistan Wednesday night and Thursday morning in two separate incidents. Nearly 30 militants and one Canadian soldier were killed, and dozens of militants were captured.
The violence erupted Wednesday night in both Kandahar and Helmand provinces, widely considered strongholds of the ousted Taleban regime.
Coalition spokesman Sergeant Chris Miller says Afghan and Canadian forces initiated the combat in Kandahar province late Wednesday night.
"A combined joint task force conducted an intelligence-based combat operation, killing 18 Taleban extremists and capturing 26," he announced.
He said a female Canadian officer was also killed, and three Afghan soldiers were wounded during the combat.
The Canadians say Captain Nichola Goddard is the seventeenth Canadian killed in Afghanistan since 2002. She is also the first female Canadian soldier killed in combat since World War II.
In Helmand province, local officials say hundreds of Taleban insurgents attacked a police and government headquarters Wednesday night. The fighting lasted into Thursday morning.
At least nine police officers were killed in the Helmand battle, and security forces say they have recovered the bodies of more than a dozen militants.
The clashes are the heaviest in years. Taleban supporters have intensified attacks against the Afghan government and foreigners in recent months, particularly in the southern and eastern parts of the country.
But the violence is widespread. In the western city of Herat, a suicide bomber rammed his car into a convoy of vehicles carrying foreigners Thursday, killing himself and one American.
Even as the fighting continued, lawmakers in Ottawa voted Wednesday to extend Canada's combat mission in Afghanistan until 2009. Prime Minister Stephen Harper's motion to keep Canadian troops there passed by only four votes.