KANDAHAR, Afghanistan – U.S.-led coalition aircraft bombed Taliban militants meeting in southern Afghanistan on Monday, reportedly killing dozens, while five Canadian soldiers were hurt and up to six militants killed in a gunbattle, officials said.
The Canadians were on a patrol about 20 kilometers west of Kandahar when they were ambushed by militants early Monday, said Maj. Mario Couture, a coalition spokesman.
Five soldiers were wounded, including one who was seriously hurt and flown to Germany for medical treatment, he said.
The body of one militant was left behind, while up to five others were believed to have been killed and their bodies taken away, he said.
Meanwhile, dozens of militants were reported killed after U.S.-led coalition aircraft bombed a Taliban meeting in Kajaki district of neighboring Helmand province at around 10 a.m. Monday.
Provincial deputy governor, Amir Mohammed Akhunzada, said more than 50 militants were believed to have been killed, including Taliban commanders, although police had yet to reach the mountainous location to confirm the casualties.
Maj. Quentin Innis, a coalition spokesman based in Kandahar, confirmed that coalition aircraft had dropped two 500-pound bombs on a Taliban compound, causing "a lot" of casualties. He said up to 50 militants could have been killed.
In recent weeks, southern Afghanistan has been hit by some of the deadliest fighting since the ouster of the Taliban regime in late 2001. Militants have stepped up attacks in their former heartland, drawing a fierce response from coalition and Afghan forces.
Before Monday's violence, as many as 372 people, mostly militants, have been reported killed since May 17, according to coalition and Afghan figures.
On Sunday, authorities found the decapitated bodies of three police dumped in a field elsewhere in Helmand, two days after they disappeared. Officials blamed Taliban militants for the killings.