Battle between police and Taliban 20 suspected militants killed

A battle between police and Taliban killed 20 suspected militants and two policemen in northwestern Afghanistan.

Militants attacked three separate police posts Saturday in the Murghab district of Badghis province, said provincial police chief Gen. Mohammad Ayub Naizyar.

Police repelled the attack and sent reinforcements to the area, forcing the militants to withdraw, Naizyar said. The six-hour battle left 20 suspected insurgents and two policemen dead, he said, adding that the district is under government control.

There have been a number of attacks in the relatively peaceful north, but the southern and eastern provinces are the hardest hit by the insurgency.

In southern Zabul province, NATO and Afghan troops clashed with militants and called in airstrikes, leaving 27 suspected Taliban insurgents dead in the district of Shinkay, said Defense Ministry spokesman Gen. Mohammad Zahir Azimi.

The operation followed intelligence reports of militant activity in the area, Azimi said. There were no reports of civilian casualties, he said.

Neither claim could be independently verified because the incidents occurred in remote areas.

Britain's Ministry of Defense, meanwhile, said a British soldier died and four others were wounded on Saturday during a battle with militants in Helmand's Sangin district, the center of a major NATO operation against Taliban militants.

After a winter lull, there has been a sharp spike in clashes and other violence this spring in Afghanistan. Some 2,200 people, many of them insurgents, have died in insurgency-related violence this year, according to an Associated Press count based on numbers reported by the U.S., NATO, U.N. and Afghan officials.

Also in the south, more than 100 relatives and tribal elders attended the Islamic burial of former top Taliban commander Mullah Dadullah, who was killed in a U.S.-led operation last month, said Mansoor Dadullah, the militia's new commander.

Mullah Dadullah, whose body was handed over to relatives this week by the Afghan government, was buried in the Zod Shar neighborhood of Kandahar city, Mansoor Dadullah told an Associated Press reporter by satellite phone. He said he did not attend the burial.

The Taliban released four kidnapped medical workers in exchange for Mullah Dadullah's body, which the government said it had buried in a secret location in Kandahar. The militants already beheaded a fifth medical worker and had said they would kill the rest if the body wasn't released.

Mansoor Dadullah, who was named as his brother's replacement shortly after his death, said he is in touch with al-Qaida's leadership in Afghanistan, and the two organizations share fighters.

Al-Qaida militants help train the Taliban, he added.