updated 7/26/2007 4:09:18 AM ET 2007-07-26T08:09:18

U.S.-led coalition forces and Afghan troops battled militants in southern Afghanistan, leaving more than 50 suspected Taliban dead, the coalition said Thursday.

The 12-hour-long battle that ended early Thursday targeted 16 compounds from which militants had been attacking troops in Helmand province, the coalition said in a statement.

“Coalition air support dropped two bombs on the compounds with the greatest concentration of insurgents,” the statement said. “Both compounds produced significant secondary explosions immediately suggesting a large quantity of explosive material was present in each.”

More than 50 Taliban were killed and a number of others were wounded, the coalition said.

‘Base of support’
The clash happened near the village of Musa Qala, where a peace deal struck last year with local elders effectively ceded control of the area to Taliban fighters. Militants use the village and surrounding areas as a staging ground for raids against Afghan and foreign troops.

“They are using Musa Qala as a base of support and it is believed that they will stay and defend the area rather than use their normal hit-and-run tactics,” the coalition said.

A coalition soldier broke his hand during the engagement, it said.

Violence has risen sharply in Afghanistan in the last two months. More than 3,500 people, mostly militants, have been killed in insurgency-related violence this year, according to an Associated Press tally of casualty figures provided by Western and Afghan officials.

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