Video: Civilian deaths mount in Afghanistan

updated 5/15/2007 6:49:53 AM ET 2007-05-15T10:49:53

At least 11 suspected Taliban and possibly dozens more were killed by airstrikes on Taliban compounds Tuesday in southern Afghanistan, officials said.

Afghanistan’s Defense Ministry said 11 Taliban were killed in the Zhari district of Kandahar province early Tuesday, though the provincial police chief said more than 60 suspected insurgents died, including three regional commanders.

The airstrikes were carried out at 3 a.m. local time, and many other suspected Taliban were wounded, said Kandahar Police Chief Esmatullah Alizai. He said there were no civilians killed or wounded.

Casualty tolls from remote battle sites in Afghanistan often vary widely, and the number of casualties could not be independently verified.

Alizai said NATO forces carried out the airstrike, but NATO’s International Security Assistance Force did not immediately have any details. The separate U.S.-led coalition said it was not their operation.

Defense Ministry spokesman Gen. Zahir Azimi said the militants were killed during a joint NATO-Afghan operation.

Alizai said the airstrike was based on “good information.” He identified the regional commanders killed as Mullah Abdul Hakim, Mullah Abdul Manan and Mullah Zarif, and said bodies were still being removed from under the mud and rubble of the bombed compounds.

Fighting follows Taliban commander's death
The latest violence comes days after the Taliban’s top military commander, Mullah Dadullah, was killed in southern Afghanistan during a U.S.-led operation that also involved NATO and Afghan troops.

Dadullah was killed in the Sangin area of Helmand province, which has seen heavy fighting in recent weeks. Airstrikes last week near Sangin killed between 20 and 40 civilians, according to Afghan officials and villagers, the latest in a series of operations marred by civilian deaths that has weakened support for international forces.

In eastern Paktika province, insurgents ambushed a police patrol early Tuesday, and the ensuing two-hour clash left two policemen and a suspected militant dead, said Ghamai Khan, a spokesman for the governor.

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