updated 7/3/2004 6:42:06 AM ET 2004-07-03T10:42:06

U.S. forces killed about a dozen militants in the past week, the military said Saturday, in efforts to keep Taliban-led rebels on the defensive ahead of Afghanistan's national elections.

The victims died during skirmishes across the troubled south in which another dozen militants were detained, U.S. spokesman Maj. Jon Siepmann said.

"I believe the figures are roughly a dozen killed and another dozen captured," Siepmann said. Several U.S. and allied troops were wounded, but none fatally, he said.

Torn by conflictThe latest fatalities bring to more than 120 the number of militants that American and Afghan officials have reported killed since U.S. Marines began a series of major operations in Taliban strongholds in late May.

Seven U.S. soldiers and about 20 Afghan security forces have died in the same period.

American commanders say the rebel losses are evidence that it is winning its battle against the Taliban and al-Qaida to ensure that elections can go ahead as planned in September, despite rebel threats to sabotage the process.

But they also show the tenacity of resistance to the government of U.S.-backed President Hamid Karzai, two and a half years after the fall of the Taliban.

The bloodiest fighting has been in Daychopan, a mountainous region of Zabul province, 190 miles southwest of Kabul, which also saw fierce clashes last summer.

U.S. and Afghan forces killed five militants and captured seven in the region on Wednesday.

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