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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

50 Taliban Guerrillas Dead in U.S. Raid

KANDAHAR, Afghanistan -- U.S. jets and ground forces bombarded Taliban guerrillas in southeastern Afghanistan on Monday, killing at least 50 of them and destroying their mountain camp, a provincial government spokesman said.

Ahmad Khan, spokesman for the governor of Zabul province, said that as part of a joint operation with Afghan army forces to hunt down Taliban fighters, U.S. jets bombed Taliban in the mountains of Dai Chupan district in Zabul province.

He said that at about 6 p.m., U.S. jets and ground forces using heavy weapons bombarded a Taliban camp on Mt. Karou, he said by satellite phone from the mountain.

He said that after the bombardment, the bodies of at least 50 Taliban guerrillas had been collected by Afghan forces.

About 400 Taliban had been operating in the district, and they were led by four commanders, including Mullah Dadullah, who was well known during the Islamic militia's rule. None of the commanders was believed to be among the dead, he said.

The bombardment destroyed a Taliban camp near the border with Pakistan, he said.

Hundreds of Afghan and U.S. forces, backed by helicopter gunships and fighter jets, hunted for Taliban guerrillas in southeastern Afghanistan, and about 100 people have been arrested in the last few days, Afghan officials said Monday.

The operations in Paktika and Zabul provinces follow a wave of attacks by suspected Taliban against police stations and government forces in the past two weeks. The violence has killed dozens of people and has cast a shadow over efforts to rebuild the war-battered country.

Presidential spokesman Jawad Luddin said the guerrillas were trying to stop reconstruction and destabilize some local administrations of the government of Afghan leader Hamid Karzai, who took power after the ouster of the hardline Islamic militia by U.S.-led forces in late 2001.

In Paktika, about 600 mostly U.S. troops, backed by helicopter gunships, have been searching house-to-house for the past four days, said Khan Sayed, spokesman for the provincial police chief.

Sayed said the operation was centered in Urgun district. About 80 suspects had been arrested, and those found to be innocent would be released, while those believed guilty would be sent to the capital, Kabul, he said.

Over a week ago, hundreds of suspected Taliban, reportedly riding in pickup trucks, launched bloody attacks on police stations in Paktika. Local officials said the insurgents rumbled into the area from the direction of Pakistan.

"So far, American and Afghan soldiers have arrested 20 to 25 people in these districts on suspicion of their links with Taliban," Khan said. Documents with code names and apparent details about military strategy were also seized from some people, he said.

Also on Monday, suspected Taliban insurgents exploded a land mine on a key highway in the eastern province of Logar but no one was injured, said General Hatiqulluh Luddin, a regional military commander. The guerrillas were apparently targeting a convoy of government troops, but the mine only blew up a highway bridge minutes before the soldiers were to cross it, he said.

Presidential spokesman Luddin told a news conference Monday that the military operations in Zabul and Paktika had been "very successful."

He said the insurgent attacks were localized in areas "where the terrorists find a soft space to operate." He claimed they were linked to terrorist cells outside the country.

The recent assaults have been mostly in the south and east of Afghanistan, but also in some central regions. They come amid reports the Taliban are regrouping and that the group's leader Mullah Mohammed Omar has appointed military commanders to areas of control.

The Afghan administration has complained to Pakistan that Taliban leaders appear to have found refuge in its lawless tribal regions.