A raid by Nato soldiers and a back-up airstrike killed 15 Taliban in southern Afghanistan today.
Nato confirmed there had been an operation involving coalition and Afghan security forces to detain a senior Taliban leader followed by the airstrike in Helmand province.
“Upon arrival at the suspected location the joint security force immediately took fire from several insurgents in a series of engagements. The joint security force returned fire, killing four insurgents,” it said.
Nearby compounds were searched and a bomb-making factory and weapons cache discovered.
The soldiers decided to destroy them, but 11 gunmen on motorbikes and in three vehicles approached the site at high speed. The soldiers killed them before calling in the airstrike to destroy the compounds.
Earlier, the head of Helmand’s provincial council, Fazal Bari, said around 25 people had been killed. He said four Taliban commanders were among the dead.
Last year Nato tightened the rules of engagement, including the use of airstrikes, if civilians were at risk. Deaths attributed to allied troops have since dropped by nearly 30% .
In an unrelated incident, an insurgent attack in eastern Afghanistan killed a Nato soldier bringing to 50 the number of coalition troops killed this month.