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Over 200 Taliban Militants Killed in Afghanistan
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More than 200 Taliban insurgents and four ISAF troops were killed in a major offensive in the southern Kandahar province of Afghanistan, ISAF said in a statement on Sunday.

Reports indicate that more than 200 Taliban fighters have been killed in Panjwai district since about 2,000 troops of the NATO-led International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) and Afghan forces launched Operation Medusa early Saturday morning, it said.

This figure was arrived at by reviewing information from ISAF surveillance and reconnaissance assets operating in Panjwai and Zhari districts, as well as information reported by various Afghan officials and citizens living nearby, it added.

Four ISAF soldiers were killed on Sunday and seven others were wounded, the statement said.
It didn't announce the soldiers' nationality, while Afghan Defense Ministry spokesman Zahir Azimi earlier said three Canadian soldiers had been killed in the operation.

Meanwhile, more than 80 suspected Taliban fighters were captured by Afghan police and a further 180 insurgents were seen fleeing the district, the ISAF statement added.

It also claimed, "There are no reports of civilian casualties, despite the heavy weight of fire being used."

However, Azimi said "a number of civilians" were killed in Panjwayi district, though he didn't give the exact number.

Panjwai, about 40 km west of Kandahar city, capital of Kandahar province, has been a hotbed of Taliban militants, who attack ISAF and Afghan troops frequently.

A British reconnaissance plane of ISAF crashed near Panjwai on Saturday, killing all 14 UK soldiers on board.

ISAF has denied a claim by the Taliban that its militants shot down the plane, saying "a technical problem" caused the incident.

An ISAF spokesman said on Sunday all soldiers' remains had been retrieved and would be transported to the Kandahar Air Field before being sent back to Britain, according to reports.

About 10,000 ISAF troops are deployed in southern Afghanistan, a traditional stronghold of the Taliban, to fight insurgents there.

Afghanistan is suffering from a rise of Taliban-linked violence this year, during which more than 2,000 people, mostly Taliban rebels, have been killed.

Among the fatalities are over 100 foreign troops.

(Xinhua News Agency September 4, 2006)

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