More Than 20 Taliban Militants Killed in Eastern Afghanistan

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More than 20 Taliban fighters were killed in five days of fighting in eastern Afghanistan, including eight foreign fighters whose bodies were returned to Pakistan, an official said Sunday.

Gen. Murad Ali, the deputy Afghan army commander for Paktika province, said 20 bodies were recovered from the fighting in Bermel district. In addition, he said, airstrikes or artillery fire struck two Taliban trucks, killing an estimated 40 fighters. Four NATO soldiers and three Afghan soldiers were injured, he said.

Ali said tribal elders took the bodies of eight foreign fighters back to Pakistan for burial.

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A spokesman for NATO's International Security Assistance Force said he had no independent estimate of the number of fighters killed, but did not dispute Ali's figures.

"We are not into the numbers game here lately," said the spokesman, Maj. Luke Knittig.

Death tolls in remote areas of Afghanistan are almost impossible to verify and often vary widely.

Abdul Baqi Nuristani, the provincial police chief, said only 25 militants have been killed in recent days in Bermel, which is home to a military base that hosts both Afghan and U.S. soldiers.

NATO-led troops aided by military aircraft killed 15 suspected insurgents in the district on Tuesday after troops on patrol came under attack.