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U.S. Troops Kill Taliban Commander Clad in Woman's Clothing

Gunbattles and airstrikes by NATO and Afghan troops killed 53 militants in Afghanistan, including a wanted Taliban commander who tried to hide from soldiers under a woman's burqa, officials said Saturday.

The U.S. forces targeting the commander surrounded a house Friday in Ghazni province and ordered everyone inside to leave, a military statement said.

Six women and 12 children left the building, but while soldiers were questioning the women they discovered one was actually a man dressed in a burqa, the traditional all-encompassing dress that most Afghan women wear. The man, later identified as the targeted commander Haji Yakub, tried to attack the soldiers and was killed, the military said.

Yakub allegedly directed roadside bomb and suicide attacksagainst Afghanistan's government and coalition forces in Ghazni, according to the statement. Three other militants were killed in the operation, it said.

Meanwhile, Afghan and coalition forces killed 33 militants when their patrol came under attack in southern Helmand province Friday, a military statement said. The troops responded to the attack with gunfire and air support,it said.

In Kandahar province, meanwhile, a three-day NATO-Afghan operation in Zhari district killed 12 militants, said police Chief Matiullah Khan. No police were killed in the operation, which finished on Friday, he said.

Police in western Farah province said they killed four insurgents setting up a makeshift base in a village, apparently aiming to launch strikes on Farah city.

Residents of Raj, about two miles north of Farah city, tipped off officials that a convoy of enemy fightershad arrived in the village, provincial police chief Gen. Abdul Ghafar Watandar said.

Afghan army and police attacked the nine-vehicle convoy, killing four insurgents and wounding another three as other insurgents fled, Watandar said. An Afghan police officer was also killed in the gunbattle, he said.

Afghanistan has seen a spike in violence over the last two years as more international troops pour into the country to battle a growing militant insurgency. Some 65,000 international forces now operate in Afghanistan.

More than 5,800 people have died in insurgency-related violence this year, according to an Associated Press count based on figures from Afghan and Western officials.