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Afghan police operating a checkpoint in Helmand Province earlier this month (epa)
March 23, 2007 -- Afghanistan's Defense Ministry says at least 69 Taliban fighters have been killed in a battle that started March 22 in the southern province of Helmand.
Defense Ministry spokesman General Zahir Azimi says seven Afghan government soldiers also were killed by fighting in three districts of Helmand -- Nadali, Gerishk, and Lashkar Gah.
Azimi said the battle was part of a ground offensive conducted solely by Afghan government troops -- the first such operation since training of the Afghan National Army and Afghan National Police began in 2002.
Azimi said the government offensive, code-named Operation Norouz, will conclude later today. NATO-led forces are providing air support.
Thousands of NATO and Afghan troops have been engaged in combat for weeks against Taliban fighters in Helmand Province.
They are trying to eliminate Taliban strongholds and hideouts in an area about 150 kilometers around the Kajaki hydroelectric dam.
(AP, AFP, dpa)
A U.S. military vehicle damaged by insurgents near Kandahar (epa)
HOMEGROWN OR IMPORTED? As attacks against Afghan and international forces continue relentlessly, RFE/RL hosted a briefing to discuss the nature of the Afghan insurgency. The discussion featured Marvin Weinbaum, professor emeritus of political science at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, and RFE/RL Afghanistan analyst Amin Tarzi.
Listen to the entire briefing (about 83 minutes):Real Audio Windows Media
RFE/RL's coverage of Afghanistan
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