KABUL, Afghanistan – Afghan and coalition troops, pushing ahead with their largest offensive since the ousting of the Taliban five years ago, have killed about 85 suspected insurgents in targeted attacks over the past few days in southern Afghanistan, military officials said.
About 10,000 U.S.-led troops have spread out over four southern provinces as part of Operation Mountain Thrust, a counter-insurgency blitz aimed at quelling a Taliban resurgence.
An estimated 40 fighters were killed Friday when coalition forces surprised militants as they gathered at a "known enemy camp" in Khod Valley, part of Shahidi Hassas district of Uruzgan province, the military said Saturday.
Among those killed were financiers, members of a bomb-making cell, and area leaders responsible for attacks against Afghan civilians and the army, the military said.
"Coalition forces have delivered a quick and severe blow to the enemy today," spokesman Lt. Col. Paul Fitzpatrick said Saturday.
In a separate incident, Afghan and coalition forces conducted a raid on a Taliban compound near Tirin Kot, the capital of Uruzgan, killing five insurgents, the military said. They also seized about eight pounds of opium.
One U.S. soldier was wounded in the raid. He was later listed in stable condition.
Meanwhile, two coalition soldiers were killed Friday in eastern Kunar province by a roadside bomb as they conducted a security sweep of the area, the military said. The soldiers' nationalities were not released.
On Friday, coalition forces said they killed an estimated 40 militants in a remote, mountainous area of southeastern Paktika province in operations supporting Mountain Thrust. One coalition member was wounded in the two-day push that ended Thursday.
Afghan soldiers, along with American, Canadian and British troops, are spreading out over Helmand, Uruzgan, Kandahar and Zabul provinces to hunt down Taliban fighters blamed for a recent upsurge in ambushes and bombings.
On Saturday, British troops battled Taliban fighters near Kajaki dam in southern Helmand province, killing six insurgents, said Capt. Drew Gibson on Sunday.
In the past few days, militants had been firing mortars in an attempt to damage the dam, Gibson said, adding that British forces "have tightened security in this area."
Operation Mountain Thrust, which began with limited raids in mid-May, rolled out in earnest last week to help prepare for the handover of military control to NATO forces later this summer.
More than 500 people have been killed in the past month as insurgents, primarily Taliban, step up attacks against coalition and Afghan troops across the country, particularly the south, in the bloodiest campaign of violence since 2001.
Violence continued Saturday as a suicide attacker on a motorcycle detonated his explosives near a group of Afghan soldiers in southwestern Nimroz province, killing himself and wounding two soldiers and three bystanders, provincial officials said.
Seven militants and one policeman were killed during a gunbattle in southern Kandahar, the Interior Ministry said.