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Afghan Governor Says Air Strike Kills 70 Taliban

KABUL (Reuters) -- About 70 Taliban fighters were killed in an overnight air strike by foreign forces in the southern Afghan province of Helmand near the Pakistan border, the provincial governor said.

The attack took place late on October 14 in Helmand's Baram Cha district. Violence in Afghanistan is running at its highest rate since the U.S.-led invasion to wrest control from the militant Islamist Taliban movement in 2001.

"Most of these Taliban [killed] are foreign fighters who entered Afghanistan to destabilize the country," Governor Dawood Ahmadi told Reuters in Kandahar.

NATO and the U.S.-led coalition forces in Afghanistan said they had no immediate information about the air strike.

Provincial authorities said earlier that another 22 Taliban insurgents and six Afghan policemen were killed in overnight clashes in the south.

Dozens of Taliban fighters attacked Lashkar Gah in Helmand, about 550 kilometers southwest of the capital, Kabul. Eighteen insurgents were killed during a four-hour gun battle, said provincial Police Chief Asadullah Sherzad.

In another incident, gunmen killed six Afghan policemen at their checkpost in the same district, a spokesman for Ahmadi said.

NATO-led Afghan troops also killed four Taliban fighters in the Andar district of Ghazni Province on October 14, said senior provincial police officer General Naorooz.

Overall levels of violence have surged despite a slight drop in militant activity during Ramadan last month.

The United Nations says more than 3,800 people, a third of them civilians, were killed in the first seven months of this year.