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Continuing Sweep Against Afghan Insurgents Said to Kill Scores More Militants

U.S.-led coalition forces, continuing their much publicized counter-insurgency sweep through Afghanistan's four southern provinces, say they have killed about 65 extremists during heavy fighting. VOA's Benjamin Sand reports from Islamabad on the operation in the Taleban's traditional stronghold.

U.S. officials say Afghan and coalition forces engaged more than two-dozen "extremists" in the southern province of Kandahar late Friday evening.

They say 25 militants were killed during the three-hour battle.

According to a coalition statement released Saturday, a number of insurgents used Afghan civilians as human shields and managed to escape into nearby villages.

Also Friday, coalition forces said they killed up to 40 other militants during heavy clashes in nearby Uruzgan province.

"Afghan and coalition forces engaged more than 40 extremists with small-arms and joint fires after receiving enemy fire from fighters hiding in an orchard and compound near the village of Mirabad," said U.S. military spokeswoman Lt. Tamara Lawrence.

More than 10,000 Afghan and coalition troops are sweeping through southern Afghanistan in their largest counter-insurgency operation in more than four years.

The offensive follows a sharp rise in insurgent activity in southern and eastern Afghanistan.

That violence fueled widespread concern that the U.S.-backed central government could be losing ground to followers of the ousted Taleban regime.