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40 Suspected Taleban Killed in Afghanistan Clash - 2003-06-05

In Afghanistan, officials say at least 40 suspected Taleban and seven government troops have been killed in a clash in the southeast of the country. Afghan officials say the clash took place near Spin Boldak, close to the border with Pakistan. They say remnants of the Taleban were hiding in the area, and were involved in small-scale operations against government forces in recent days.

According to local officials, the government troops surrounded the rebels on Wednesday in the village of Loi Karez, and engaged them in a fierce battle that left a large number of Taleban fighters dead. Government officials say this is the largest group of Taleban found in more than a year.

The rebels reportedly used rockets and heavy machine guns against the government troops.

U.S. special forces reportedly were in the area at the time of the fighting, but Afghan officials say they only provided support to local troops.

Southern Afghanistan has been the scene of violent attacks against Afghan troops and foreign aid workers in recent months. Afghan officials blame fugitive members of the deposed Taleban government and al-Qaida terrorist network for the violence.

Thousands of international troops led by the United States are hunting down these militants.

This week, about 500 U.S. and Italian troops mounted a major operation in the east and southeast of the country to hunt for remnants of al-Qaida and the Taleban. The two-day operation led to the detention of 21 Afghans.

Over the past few days, there have been reports of a rocket attack on a camp of workers removing landmines along roads leading south out of Kabul, the capital. The U.S. military also says a bomb went off near a troop convoy on Wednesday. There were no injuries in either attack.