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Arabs, Pakistanis Identified Among Afghan Insurgents Killed by Air Strike

The governor of the province where most of Afghanistan's opium is produced is praising NATO forces for carrying out a well-coordinated attack against Taliban and foreign fighters that, he says, for the first time, avoided any civilian casualties. VOA Correspondent Steve Herman reports from Kabul.

Provincial officials in Afghanistan say a Wednesday pre-dawn strike was carried out against insurgents in Helmand province, killing Taliban and other fighters.

Spokesmen say the rebels were under surveillance by international troops who called in NATO aircraft to bomb the insurgents.

The encounter took place in the Baram Cha district, a major gateway for exporting opium and heroin, near the Pakistani border. Afghanistan's government has maintained little control over the area but this year has launched several military campaigns against drug traffickers.

Helmand Governor Gulab Mangal tells VOA News most of the insurgents killed were involved in the narcotics trade or newly-arrived Arab or Pakistani fighters.

The governor says he is pleased with the aerial attack on the insurgents as it was well-coordinated. He adds it was an unprecedented success because not a single civilian was harmed by the bombing.

Provincial officials say up to 70 rebels were killed. Governor Mangal says the bodies of a "large number" of insurgents have been "buried with respect" by the municipal government.

Officials say that in another battle Tuesday night, in the provincial capital of Lashkar Gah, at least 18 Taliban militants were killed as they attempted to attack the city. Meanwhile, six police officers were reported killed by insurgents at a checkpoint north of Lashkar Gah.

Helmand province produces nearly all of Afghanistan's opium. NATO defense ministers recently gave authorization to its troops here to carry out attacks specifically against drug lords and opium manufacturing facilities.

Afghan, American and Pakistani senior commanders have met in Rawalpindi, Pakistan's military headquarters, to discuss the security situation along the Pakistani-Afghan border.

U.S. officials want Pakistan to attempt to control its tribal region. Insurgents use the border area to plan and launch attacks in both Pakistan and Afghanistan.