KABUL (Reuters) – Ten militants and a civilian construction worker have been killed in fighting in Afghanistan, officials said on Wednesday, as the U.S.-led coalition winds up security responsibilities in the violent south.
NATO will take over command from the coalition in the south next Monday, extending its control over security to all of the country except the east.
Afghanistan is going through its bloodiest phase of violence since the ouster of the Taliban government in 2001, with most attacks occurring in the south. The coalition says it has killed more than 600 militants since the start of June.
It said on Wednesday their forces had killed seven militants a day earlier in the drug-producing province of Helmand, where thousands of British troops are based.
The patrol came under small arms, rocket-propelled grenade, machine gun and sniper fire, a forces statement said. Five insurgents were killed.
Later in the same area, Afghan and coalition troops were attacked and in the resulting firefight two more insurgents were killed, the coalition said.
Separately, a defense ministry statement said on Wednesday an Afghan soldier was killed by an explosion in the same province.
U.S., British and Canadian troops, along with Afghan forces, have been battling the Taliban in Helmand since March. Six British troops have been killed there since mid-June.
The Taliban and drug gangs have operated unmolested in Helmand for years and are putting up fierce resistance to efforts by foreign and government forces to extend their authority.
Afghanistan’s defense ministry said another two militants had been killed in combat in the south on Tuesday, and a third insurgent was killed in the southeast.
In Zabul province, another province to come under NATO control in five days’ time, police said a civilian construction worker was killed and three others wounded on Wednesday in a Taliban ambush.
NATO will take charge of security in six southern provinces next Monday in what will be its biggest ground operation since its formation over 50 years ago.