Afghan officials say at least 69 Taleban militants were killed in a joint operation by military and police forces in southern Helmand province Thursday.

A defense ministry spokesman, Zahir Azimi, said Friday that seven police officers also were killed in the fighting. Earlier reports said NATO forces were involved in the operation, but Azimi said they were not.

He said troops are assessing the damage and looking for weapons.

Helmand province has seen heavy fighting between NATO and Taleban forces. The region is Afghanistan's top opium producer and has been plagued by attacks from Taleban and foreign militants.

Last month in Helmand, NATO launched Operation Achilles with 4,500 NATO troops and 1,000 Afghan soldiers to preempt an anticipated offensive by Taleban fighters.

In 2006, a resurgent Taleban movement carried out the highest number of suicide bombings and other attacks in Afghanistan since U.S.-led forces ousted the Taleban government in November 2001.

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