Afghans say hundreds of Taliban killed in Musa Qala

KABUL (Reuters) – Afghan and NATO-led troops killed, wounded and detained hundreds of insurgents during fighting in the Taliban’s biggest stronghold, the Defence Ministry said on Thursday.

Musa Qala, in the southern province of Helmand, took on a symbolic importance after the Taliban seized it in February following the breakdown of a much-criticized local truce that allowed besieged British troops to pull out of the town in October last year.

Thousands of Afghan and NATO-led International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) troops captured the town on Tuesday after one of the biggest operations the Afghan army has carried out.

“During the successful operation by ISAF and Afghan troops in Musa Qala, hundreds of insurgents including several commanders and tens of foreign fighters have been either killed, wounded or detained,” Defence Ministry spokesman Zahir Azimi told a news conference.

“We can not say exactly how many enemies have been killed at this time as we are still busy collecting dead bodies from Musa Qala,” he said.

“Afghan and NATO troops also bombed an important Taliban meeting in the mountains of Sangin and Musa Qala district that led to a high number of casualties,” Azimi said.

The Taliban relaunched their insurgency to topple the pro-Western Afghan government and eject the 50,000 foreign troops from the country two years ago.

U.S. and Afghan forces ousted the Taliban from power in late 2001 after the hardline Islamist movement refused to hand over al Qaeda leaders in the wake of the September 11 attacks.

Under Taliban control, Musa Qala became a base for training Afghan and foreign fighters, the Taliban command and control point and the centre for drug processing and trafficking, Azimi said.

Elsewhere, two ISAF soldiers were killed and three others wounded when their vehicle hit a roadside bomb in eastern Afghanistan on Wednesday, the force said. Most ISAF soldiers in the east and American.

Meanwhile, six Afghan civilians were killed and six others were wounded when their bus struck a roadside bomb in the Tarin Kot district of Uruzgan province on Thursday, the Interior Ministry said in a statement.

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