Afghan official says 20 militants killed in west

Sat Aug 9, 3:49 AM ET

About 20 Taliban fighters were killed in a battle with Afghan and U.S.-led forces near a key military supply route in western Afghanistan, a provincial official said Saturday.

Younus Rasouli, deputy governor of Farah province, said police attacked a village in Bala Buluk district Friday after being informed that Taliban militants had ordered residents out and taken it over to use as a base. The police called in air support from the U.S.-led coalition during the gun battle, Rasouli said.

Coalition spokesman 1st Lt. Nathan Perry confirmed that fighter aircraft engaged in combat in Bala Buluk on Friday for about an hour. He said there were no coalition casualties but did not provide further details.

Bala Buluk includes sections of the highway between the cities of Kandahar and Herat and the main road to Farah city. Rasouli said the militants were suspected of planning attacks on convoys supplying American and NATO bases in the region.

Rasouli said residents had completely abandoned the village, Seya Jang, so there were no civilian casualties from the fighting. He said the militants had retreated from the village, which was back under police control.

Fighting has spread into areas such as Farah this year as the six-year-old Taliban-led insurgency has gathered steam. NATO says the surge in fighting is partly because there are more Afghan and international troops to mount patrols in remote areas.

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