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U.S., Afghan Forces Kill 30 Taliban, Ministry Says

KABUL (Reuters) -- U.S. and Afghan forces have killed 30 Taliban fighters, including a local commander, in an operation in Afghanistan's southern province of Helmand, the Interior Ministry has said.

Violence has reached its bloodiest level since the Taliban's removal in a U.S.-led invasion in 2001, raising fears Afghanistan could slide back into anarchy despite increasing numbers of foreign forces.

The Interior Ministry statement said another 20 militants were wounded in the March 31 operation. It did not say whether the police or U.S.-led forces had suffered any casualties in the raid and gave no further details.

The raid in Helmand came a day after a similar number of insurgents were killed in a joint operation in neighboring Uruzgan Province, according to the Interior Ministry.

The Taliban have yet to comment on either incident. They routinely reject reports of high casualties as propaganda.

Taliban militants are mostly active in south and east Afghanistan but have managed to increase the size and scope of their attacks toward the capital, Kabul, since last year.

The growing violence has prompted some Western politicians to warn that Afghanistan may slide back into anarchy despite the presence of more than 70,000 foreign troops.

To combat Taliban advances, Washington plans to send an extra 17,000 troops, as well as 4,000 trainers for Afghan security forces, ahead of elections in August.