Afghan and international troops killed more than 130 insurgents in six days of fighting in a once-stable area of northern Afghanistan that has seen a recent spike in Taliban attacks, NATO said Monday. It was some of the heaviest fighting in the north this year.
The operation, which took place last week, was in the Chahar Dara district of Kunduz province against Taliban fighters who had been threatening NATO supply lines from Russia.
An estimated 700 Afghan troops and 50 international soldiers, mostly Americans, took part in the operation. A NATO statement said 130 Taliban fighters, including eight commanders, were killed. The statement did not say how NATO arrived at the death figure.
"It is the largest operation I've ever seen in Kunduz," Mohammad Omar, governor of Kunduz province, was quoted as saying in a NATO press release. "You've got the Taliban running all over the place."
After the fighting ended, Afghan and international troops distributed humanitarian supplies in villages affected by the operation. Six trucks delivered clothing and food, including cooking oil, rice and beans in hopes of winning public support.
Kunduz, a province which borders Tajikistan, is the main area of operation of German forces. But Lt. Col. Joerg Lange, spokesman for the Bundeswehr Operations Command in Potsdam, Germany, said German troops had not been involved in the fighting.
Residents of the northern provinces of Baghlan and Kunduz provinces say security has been steadily deteriorating in the north for the past two years.
But violence increased markedly early this year after NATO opened a new supply route which brings supplies from Europe through Russia and down to the former Soviet republics of central Asia, from where they are brought by truck to U.S. forces in central and southern Afghanistan.
The route was opened after attacks threatened the long-standing supply routes from Pakistan.
On Sept. 4, Taliban militants hijacked two fuel trucks in Kunduz, and German forces called in an airstrike by U.S. fighter pilots, saying they feared the trucks could be used in suicide bombings. Thirty civilians and 69 armed Taliban died in the strike, according to a probe by an Afghan presidential commission.
NATO said no coalition troops or civilians were injured in the latest operation.
Separately in eastern Afghanistan, a woman and child were killed when a mortar hit a home during a more than three-hour fight that insurgents had with private security guards protecting roadbuilders in Paktika province, said Hamid Ullah Zoowak, a spokesman for the governor of Paktika province.