10 Taliban fighters killed in Afghan clashes

KABUL, Afghanistan (AP) - August 24, 2008 Violence has spiked around Afghaninstan in recent weeks, and the Taliban have stepped up attacks against international troops. Last week the U.S. military suffered its 101st death, when Sgt. 1st Class David J. Todd Jr., 36, of Marrero, La., died in a gunfire attack. This year will likely be deadlier for U.S. troops than last year's record 111 deaths.

In the north, coalition troops returned fire after being attacked by militants while on patrol in the volatile Tagab valley of Kapisa province - near where the Taliban killed 10 French troops on Tuesday, said coalition spokesman 1st Lt. Nathan Perry.

Rahimullah Safi, the province's deputy governor, said six militants were killed in the clash, while Perry said "multiple militants" were killed.

In southern Helmand province Sunday, militants attacked an Afghan army unit that was guarding an outpost in Helmand's Musa Qala district. NATO aircraft responding to the attack killed four militants, the military alliance said in a statement.

In the eastern Kunar province, a civilian Mi-8 supply helicopter contracted by NATO-led troops crashed shortly after takeoff Sunday, killing one person on board and wounding three others, the alliance said in a statement.

It said the helicopter was leaving a NATO base in the area when it crashed. The statement gave no furtehr details.

More than 3,400 people - mostly militants - have been killed in insurgency-related violence this year, according to figures from Western and Afghan officials.

This year will likely be the deadliest for international troops since the 2001 invasion. Some 188 international soldiers, including the 101 Americans, have died in Afghanistan this year, according to an Associated Press count. That pace should far surpass the record 222 international troop deaths in 2007.

President Hamid Karzai, meanwhile, sacked two Afghan army officers following a joint Afghan-coalition operation in the country's west that he said killed at least 89 civilians.

Karzai ordered the Defense Ministry to investigate Gen. Jalandar Shah, the corps commander for the Afghan National Army in Herat, and Maj. Abdul Jabar, the commander of the commando unit involved in the Friday raid in Azizabad village of Herat's Shindand district.

An Afghan human rights group that visited the site of the operation said Saturday that at least 78 people were killed in clashes and an airstrike. The Ministry of Interior has said 76 civilians died, including 50 children under the age of 15, though the Ministry of Defense said 25 militants and five civilians were killed.

Karzai said Sunday that at least 89 civilians were killed.

Originally the U.S. coalition said the battle killed 30 militants, including a wanted Taliban commander, but U.S. coalition spokeswoman Rumi Nielson-Green said Saturday that five civilians - two women and three children connected to the militants - were among the dead.

The U.S. said it would investigate.

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