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Twenty-One Taliban Reported Killed In South Afghanistan --> Coalition troops in Zabul Province (file photo) (Courtesy Photo) August 6, 2007 -- Provincial officials in southern Afghanistan today said that local and foreign forces killed at least 21 Taliban militants in an operation launched late on August 5.

The operation reportedly began after intelligence suggested a group of Taliban fighters in the Shah Joy district of Zabul Province were attempting to block the key highway between Kandahar and the capital, Kabul.

No casualties were reported among Afghan or coalition forces.

Separately today, officials said the bodies of three Afghan mine clearers who were abducted on August 4 have been found in a village in Afghanistan's southern Kandahar Province. Kandahar Province police chief Sayed Agha Saqeb blamed the killings on the Taliban, but the group has made no claim of responsibility.

Calls For More Assistance

Meanwhile today, German Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier called for Germany to take a greater role in the international coalition in Afghanistan, and warned that a withdrawal of German would represent a victory for the Taliban.

In a statement published in the newspaper "Bild," Steinmeier called for broader German assistance in training and equipping Afghan forces.

The German parliament is scheduled to vote in October on prolonging the mandate of the country's mission in Afghanistan, where it has about 3,000 troops.

And in Tokyo today, Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe urged his political opponents to reconsider their opposition to extending Japan's non-combat mission in Afghanistan. Laws enacted after September 2001 that allow the officially pacifist Japan to provide fuel and logistical support to the international counterterrorism effort expire on November 1.

(AFP, Reuters)

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