updated 9/9/2006 5:51:59 AM ET 2006-09-09T09:51:59

NATO and Afghan forces using airstrikes, artillery and mortars killed at least 30 Taliban militants in southern Afghanistan on Saturday, the alliance said.

NATO said 320 militants had been killed in the weeklong Taliban offensive in Kandahar province’s Panjwayi district.

Those include at least 30 militants killed Saturday, and about as many on Friday, said Maj. Scott Lundy, a NATO spokesman. He said NATO and Afghan forces suffered no casualties.

Lundy said the NATO casualty count was based on reports from troops viewing the battlefield through weapons sights and other devices.

A top Taliban commander and a spokesman for the militia have strongly disputed NATO’s claims. Reporters cannot access the scene of battle to verify the death toll.

Some 20,000 NATO soldiers and a similar number of U.S. forces are trying to crush the emboldened Taliban insurgency. The heaviest fighting is taking place across vast desert plains in southern Helmand and Kandahar provinces, also center of the country’s massive opium trade.

On Friday, NATO’s top commander appealed for 2,000 more troops to help quell the insurgency, which has proven more intense than anticipated in the five weeks since the alliance took over from the U.S.-led coalition in the south.

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