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US, Afghan forces tighten net on Taliban
( 2003-10-14 22:49) (Agencies)

US helicopter gunships struck positions of a group of Taliban militants on Tuesday in the central province of Uruzgan as joint US and Afghan ground forces tightened a siege of the guerrillas, officials said.

At least three Taliban fighters and one Afghan government soldier have been killed in clashes since Monday in Darwan village of Char Cheny district, a day after Taliban guerrillas killed four soldiers in an ambush in the area, they said.

"We and American troops have tightened the siege on the Taliban," district chief Abdur Rahman told Reuters. "We are moving forward, but the Taliban are fighting fiercely too.

"Three Taliban bodies have been spotted, but I don't have fresh casualty figures for our troops except for the one killed and the four wounded from yesterday."

Rahman said two US helicopter gunships, and about two dozen US soldiers, were supporting up to 400 government troops.

He did not have any figure for the Taliban force.

US military spokesman Colonel Rodney Davis declined to provide details, but said" "Coalition forces in support of Afghan militia are engaged in combat operations against anti-coalition forces at this time. We prefer not to say more while operations are ongoing."

The US military leads an 11,500-strong force hunting Taliban and al Qaeda remnants in Afghanistan.

Uruzgan was part of the main heartland of the Taliban regime overthrown by US-led forces in late 2001.

The volatile province has been the scene of repeated Taliban raids since the radical militia fell, and the latest clash comes during an apparent guerrilla resurgence in the south and southeast.

More than 300 people, including civilians, government troops, local aid workers, American soldiers and many guerrillas have been killed and scores wounded in violence since early August, the bloodiest period since the Taliban fell.

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