NATO: More than 200 Taliban fighters killed in major Afghan operation

KABUL, Afghanistan - Afghan and NATO forces killed more than 200 Taliban fighters in a major operation in southern Afghanistan, NATO said Sunday.

Four soldiers with the NATO-led International Security Assistance Force were killed and seven others were wounded in the fighting in Kandahar province, a statement from the alliance said.

“Reports indicate that more than 200 Taliban fighters have been killed since Operation Medusa began early Saturday morning. This figure was arrived at by reviewing information from ISAF surveillance and reconnaissance assets operating in Panjwayi and Zhari districts, as well as information reported by various Afghan officials and citizens living nearby,” it said.

More than 80 suspected Taliban fighters were captured by Afghan police and a further 180 insurgents were seen fleeing the district, the statement said.

NATO said there were no reports of civilian casualties, despite the heavy weight of fire being used.

Earlier, Afghan Defense Ministry spokesman Gen. Zahir Azimi, citing intelligence reports, said 89 suspected Taliban militants and an uncertain number of civilians had been killed during two days of fighting in Panjwayi district.

It was not immediately possible to gain independent confirmation of the casualty reports, as the government has ordered vehicles off the roads leading to Panjwayi.

A NATO statement said its troops reported dozens of insurgents killed during fighting Saturday, the first day of the operation. It said many more have been wounded, and a significant number arrested.

The insurgency is going through its bloodiest period since U.S.-backed forces overthrew a Taliban government in late 2001 after it refused to hand over al-Qaida chief Osama bin Laden following the Sept. 11, attacks on the United States.

More than 2,000 people, most of them militants, along with scores of civilians and aid workers as well as hundreds of Afghan security personnel have been killed so far this year, while over 100 foreign troops, have died, including those killed in Saturday’s plane crash.