7 Taliban, 1 Policeman Killed in Clash, Airstrikes in Southern Afghanistan

Clashes and an airstrike in southern Afghanistan killed seven Taliban fighters and a police officer, officials said Wednesday.

Taliban militants ambushed a police patrol in Marja district of the southern Helmand province late Tuesday, and an ensuing battle left four militants and a police officer dead, said Helmand's police chief, Mohammad Hussein Andiwal.

Authorities recovered the militants' bodies and their weapons, he said. Two other officers were wounded and a police vehicle was damaged.

Helmand province is the world's largest opium poppy-producing region and a center of Taliban-led insurgency.

An airstrike against two motorbikes carrying Taliban militants through Zabul province killed three militants and wounded two, said provincial deputy governor Gulab Shah Alikheil. A woman and a child traveling nearby were also wounded.

Last year was the deadliest in Afghanistan since the U.S.-led invasion that toppled the Taliban in late 2001. More than 8,000 people, mostly militants, were killed, the U.N. says.