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Afghan Official: 32 Militants Killed in Helmand

A provincial government official in southern Afghanistan says a joint operation involving Afghan and NATO forces has killed 32 suspected militants.

Spokesman Daoud Ahmadi said allied forces raided several Taliban-held homes in Helmand's Nad Ali district early Wednesday. The region is in the Taliban's traditional stronghold and is near where U.S. and Afghan commanders have said they are planning a large offensive.

Commanders have not said when the offensive involving "thousands" of troops in Marjah district will begin, but media reports have indicated it could be soon. In central Kandahar city Thursday, police said a suicide car bomber detonated a blast that killed at least three people and wounded 17 others. It was unclear what the bomber was targeting.

Meanwhile, U.S. officials say they are pressing their NATO allies to contribute thousands of additional military trainers and mentors to help prepare Afghan soldiers and police to take over responsibilities for security.

In the past, NATO countries have struggled to field enough police and military trainers in Afghanistan. Officials said they want the additional trainers quickly, because in the next year Afghans are expected to begin taking a much larger role in security operations.

U.S. President Barack Obama's new Afghanistan strategy called for sending 30,000 additional U.S. forces to try to counter the Taliban's momentum and to build up Afghanistan's security forces.

Afghan officials have said they are pursuing reconciliation with some Taliban factions. Afghan President Hamid Karzai discussed the plan with Saudi King Abdullah earlier this week. On Thursday, Pakistan's foreign ministry said Pakistani officials are willing to help assist reconciliation efforts if the Afghan government asks them.

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