Clash With Taliban Suspects Kills 47

By NOOR KHAN, Associated Press Writer - KANDAHAR, Afghanistan - Government troops laid siege to three towns in southern Afghanistan where remnants of the Taliban were hiding Wednesday, engaging in a fierce gunbattle that left at least 40 Taliban fighters and seven soldiers dead, a senior official said.
The fighting broke out at about 10 a.m. in Nimakai, a town about six miles north of Spinboldak, District Chief Fazaluddin Agha told The Associated Press. It quickly spread to the nearby hamlets of Populzai and Hassanzai, he said.
"We were trying to find these Taliban and we got a tip that they were hiding in these villages," he said. He said several of the Taliban had been conducting hit-and-run missions against the Afghan troops in recent days.
Agha said about 50 Afghan troops were originally sent to Nimakai, and reinforcements were brought in later that doubled that number.
Some 20 Taliban fighters were killed in Populzai, and the rest killed in the other two villages, he said. Seven Afghan government troops were also killed in the fighting, which raged for nine hours.
The Taliban used rockets and heavy machine guns against the government troops, Agha said.
He said it was not clear who was commanding the Taliban fighters, or if any important fugitives were among those killed.
"We don't know yet who was their commander because they were all killed and nobody is left," Agha said.
Southern Afghanistan has been a hotbed of activity. Remnants of the Taliban, al-Qaida fugitives, and fighters loyal to renegade warlord Gulbuddin Hekmatyar have been blamed for the violence, as well as several attacks in Kandahar, the main city in the south.

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