KABUL, Afghanistan – Afghan and coalition forces leveled multiple attacks in southern Afghanistan, killing more than 80 militants, the military said Saturday. In one case, insurgents used Afghan civilians as shields to escape from the onslaught.
Coalition troops were locked in a five-hour gunbattle Friday with more than 40 extremists near the capital of Tirin Kot in southern Uruzgan province, the military said in a statement.
Most of the militants, who were firing from hidden positions in an orchard and compound near the village of Mirabad, were believed killed, the coalition said.
In a separate assault, Afghan and coalition forces battled a large group of militants in the Zari-Dasht district of Kandahar province, killing about 25 during three hours of fighting.
"Several extremists broke contact by using innocent Afghan civilians as shields to escape into nearby villages," the statement said.
Local Afghan commander Gen. Rahmatullah Roufi confirmed the two incidents but said only 22 Taliban were killed during the Uruzgan battle, while another 18 arrested. He also said three coalition troops were slightly injured.
Also Friday, Taliban fighters fired rockets near coalition forces in the Panjwayi district of Kandahar, said coalition spokesman Maj. Quentin Innis. Four insurgents were killed.
The coalition also said that another 17 insurgents had been killed when an enemy bunker was destroyed in Uruzgan province on Wednesday.
Coalition forces intercepted enemy fighters on Wednesday setting up an ambush site near Tirin Kot, the capital of Uruzgan province, a military statement said.
Troops "observed extremists with heavy weapons traveling back and forth from a bunker establishing an ambush site," the military said. Soldiers fired on the enemy bunker, killing 17 militants.
Coalition forces have launched a massive offensive against Taliban forces in a bid to stop a wave of suicide attacks and ambushes in the last few months.
More than 10,000 Afghan, British, Canadian and American troops are deployed across Kandahar, Helmand, Uruzgan and Zabul provinces — areas where Taliban forces have regrouped and gained strength and sympathy.
Some 200 insurgents have been killed since Operation Mountain Thrust got underway earlier this month, according to coalition figures.
On Saturday, the Afghan Defense Ministry gave a smaller figure, saying 149 militants have been killed, 32 were wounded and 61 were arrested. Three Afghan soldiers were killed and 14 others injured. It was unclear why there was a discrepancy in the numbers.
"Mountain Thrust is one of the biggest operations in the south of the country. As we enter the second week of this operation, we have made very good achievements," said spokesman Gen. Mohammad Zahir Azimi.
Afghanistan is in the grips of its deadliest spate of violence since the Taliban's ouster in 2001. President Hamid Karzai has decried the intense violence in the south, which since May has left more than 600 people dead, mostly militants.