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An Afghan fighter (file photo) 15 August 2005 -- The Afghan Defense Ministry said today that at least 21 Taliban militants were killed and six others arrested in three separate clashes in the southern part of the country.

A Defense Ministry statement said 16 Taliban fighters were killed and one other arrested in the Zabul Province. In the neighboring Uruzgan Province, five Taliban militants were killed.

The statement said five Taliban fighters were arrested in the Ghazni Province. All these events took place yesterday. The Defense Ministry said no one from the Afghan National Army was killed or wounded during these clashes.

Meanwhile, a Taliban spokesman today claimed responsibility for the kidnapping of a foreign engineer working for a Turkish company in Afghanistan.

Abdul Latif Hakimi, who claims to be a spokesman for the Taliban, said Taliban fighters kidnapped the engineer and five Afghan co-workers in the Zabul provincial capital Qalat late yesterday.

Hakimi said the Afghans were freed but Taliban leaders were still deciding whether to set the foreign engineer free or kill him. The nationality of the abducted engineer was not immediately clear.

(AP/dpa/Reuters)
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