Fighting across southern Afghanistan has left 28 suspected Taliban rebels dead as violence rages on in the countdown to crucial legislative September elections.
The bloodiest battle occurred in Zabul province where Afghan forces attacked suspected militants, killing 16 and arresting one, according to a statement from the Defense Ministry in the capital, Kabul.
Among the dead was a local Taliban commander, Mullah Nasir, the ministry statement said.
Also Sunday, a gunbattle between Afghan soldiers and insurgents left five militants dead in neighboring Uruzgan province's Dehrawud district, the statement said.
Earlier, Afghan forces had said seven militants had been killed.
In Zabul, alleged insurgents mistakenly detonated a mine that was intended to hit a convoy of U.S.-led coalition and Afghan forces Sunday. The blast killed one militant and wounding another, said Sori district chief Rovi Khan.
In an adjacent district, Tirin Kot, police hunted down and killed six suspected guerrillas who attacked a highway checkpoint, said provincial Gov. Jan Mohammed Khan. Nine alleged militants were arrested in a sweep of the area.
No security forces were hurt in any of the clashes, according to the statement and governor.
Meanwhile on Monday, U.S. Marines and Afghan Special Forces in eastern Kunar province pushed deeper Monday into Korengal Valley, which is controlled by militants suspected of ambushing a team of U.S. commandos and shooting down a special forces helicopter on June 28.
U.S. military spokesman Col. James Yonts said the forces were making progress in the operation to flush out rebel fighters, but predicted it may take a long time.
"That area, as we all know, has historically been a safe haven for enemy forces. It is no secret that they still remain there," he told reporters in Kabul. "So what you see there is the continued aggression of the American forces taking the fight to the enemies of Afghanistan to rid them from that area."
The U.S.-led coalition, Afghan police and army are on the offensive across the country to prevent the Taliban and other militants from disrupting legislative elections on Sept. 18.
Violence has left nearly 1,000 dead since March, the AP reports. Officials have warned of further unrest ahead of the polls, which are seen as a major step toward democracy in Afghanistan after more than two decades of war and civil strife.
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