updated 11/12/2006 11:41:41 PM ET 2006-11-13T04:41:41

More than 20 Taliban militants were killed in five days of fighting in eastern Afghanistan, including eight foreign fighters whose bodies were sent back to Pakistan, an official said Sunday.

The fighting may have killed up to 60 militants, but only 20 bodies were recovered, said Gen. Murad Ali, the deputy Afghan army commander for Paktika province.

Two trucks carrying Taliban fighters were destroyed by airstrikes or artillery during the fighting in Bermel district, he said, and officials estimated 40 fighters were killed in those strikes.

Four NATO soldiers and three Afghan soldiers were also injured, he said.

A spokesman for NATO's International Security Assistance Force said Ali's estimates "sound about right" but he couldn't provide an independent estimate of the number of fighters killed.

"We are not into the numbers game here lately," said Maj. Luke Knittig.

Death tolls in remote areas of Afghanistan are almost impossible to verify and often vary widely.

Abdul Baqi Nuristani, the provincial police chief, said only 25 militants have been killed in Bermel district in the last couple days. He said three Afghan and three NATO soldiers were injured in what he called "a very big battle."

Ali said tribal elders took the bodies of eight foreign fighters back to Pakistan to be buried.

Bermel is home to a military base that hosts both Afghan and U.S. soldiers. The Afghan soldiers there were congratulated last month by the Afghan defense minister and the top U.S. general in Afghanistan for their hard fighting.

NATO-led troops aided by military aircraft killed 15 suspected insurgents in the district of Bermel on Tuesday after troops on patrol came under attack.

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