Afghan, NATO forces kill 80 Taliban fighters

A total of 63 suspected militants were killed in the Dishu district of the southern province of Helmand, the Interior Ministry said in a statement. The operation, which was conducted by Afghan and US-led troops, began Friday and continued till Sunday morning, it said.

The combined forces also seized more than 16.5 tonnes of drugs from the militants, while 10 drug smugglers and armed insurgents, including foreign fighters, were detained, the statement said. The joint forces also freed 14 Afghans, who were jailed by Taliban militants on charges of working with the Western-backed Afghan government, it said.

Helmand, which is the main hub of activity for Taliban militants in the region, accounts for more than half of the opium produced in the country. Afghanistan supplies more than 90 percent of the world's opiate. A local Taliban commander and his associates were killed by a NATO airstrike in Helmand's Nad Ali district on Saturday, a statement issued by the provincial governor's office Sunday said.

At least 16 other suspected militants, including a local Taliban commander, were killed in three separate airstrikes in central province of Wardak Saturday, Shahidullah Shahid, a spokesman for the provincial governor said. Violence is on the rise as both Taliban and US-led troops have intensified their attacks since the spring. Thousands of extra US soldiers and troops from other NATO countries are expected to arrive in Afghanistan in the coming weeks.

The military escalation is aimed at turning the tide of nearly nine-year-war in Afghanistan before the allied forces could begin the drawdown of their forces.

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