Key Taliban leaders killed in Nato operation

Several key Taliban leaders and about 50 fighters have been killed in Afghanistan in an ongoing operation launched last week to clear militants from the country’s violence-plagued south, officials said today.

Early indications are that Taliban fighters “are not fighting particularly hard, don’t know what to do, but are leaving the area,” said Brig. Richard E. Nugee, the chief spokesman for Nato’s International Security Assistance Force.

Nato forces and Afghan army and police last week launched Operation Baaz Tsuka in Kandahar’s Panjwayi and Zhari districts, where Nato’s biggest ground battle in its history – Operation Medusa – was fought in September.

Nugee said about 50 Taliban fighters have been killed in the operation. There have been no casualties among Nato troops, he said.

Kandahar’s governor has previously said that about 30 fighters were killed in the operation.

As part of Baaz Tsuka, ISAF forces have launched several air strikes against Taliban command posts, killing a number of senior Taliban leaders.

“Taliban leaders are fleeing or being killed, and the Taliban soldiers don’t know what to do,” Nugee said. “Like any organisation, if you take out the head, often the body doesn’t know what to do.”

He said the operations are ongoing, but so far the joint forces have cleared three villages of Taliban.

In the latest violence, on Tuesday night, ISAF and Afghan troops arrested about 20 Taliban militants in Panjwayi, said Capt. Andre Salloum, the ISAF spokesman in southern Afghanistan.

The joint forces surrounded a large compound nearby where to 100 Taliban were located. After the Taliban returned fire on the forces, ISAF called in an air strike that killed several fighters, Salloum said.

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