Airstrikes Kill 21 Taliban in Afghanistan

Afghan and coalition forces clashed with Taliban militants Saturday in separate incidents in the east and south, killing 21 insurgents, officials said.

The police and Taliban engaged in an hour-long gunbattle in Khost province's Alishar district, said Wazir Padshah, a spokesman for the provincial police. He said NATO assisted with an airstrike, killing 11 militants. Three police were also wounded in the violence.

Lt. Col. Angela Billings, spokeswoman for NATO's International Security Assistance Force or ISAF, confirmed that NATO launched an airstrike early Saturday, causing some insurgent casualties. She said there were no NATO or civilian casualties.

The latest violence comes as NATO-led forces push forward with their largest-ever operation in southern Afghanistan, to root out militants in Helmand province's opium-producing heartland.

On Saturday in Helmand, Afghan and coalition forces killed 10 suspected Taliban in a clash and airstrike, the coalition said in a statement.

Coalition forces engaged in a ground battle after their convoy was ambushed by the Taliban near Gereshk district. A subsequent airstrike destroyed two buildings from which the militants were firing, the statement said. There were no coalition casualties.

Separately, a NATO service member was found dead in his barracks room Friday afternoon, said an ISAF statement issued from Bagram Air Base, north of Kabul. The statement, issued Saturday, did not give any further details and said the cause of death is under investigation.