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US military says 42 insurgents killed in Afghanistan

US-led troops battled militants in Afghanistan yesterday and announced they killed 42 suspected insurgents, while a Taliban suicide bomber wounded five German soldiers.
The clashes came as a Taliban commander threatened a new campaign of suicide bombings and attacks in response to an imminent surge of 21,000 US troops under a sweeping new strategy rolled out by Washington to stabilise the country.
The deadliest battle was in the southern province of Uruzgan where the US military said nearly two dozen militants were killed after ambushing a patrol of coalition troops and police.
"Afghan and coalition forces returned fire and called for close air support, killing 23 militants," it said in a statement in Kabul.
Nine more were killed in the adjoining province of Helmand in fighting that erupted when troops "positively identified armed militants preparing an attack from inside a wooded area," the same statement said.
Security forces also found nearly 100 kilograms (220 pounds) of opium and 2,400 kilograms of ammonium nitrate used to produce explosives, it said.
Volatile Helmand is Afghanistan's main opium production belt, the largest in the world and which officials say bankrolls insurgent activity.
The US military said 10 insurgents were killed in a battle with troops under US command southwest of Kabul in the strategic province of Logar – the site of a multi-billion-dollar Chinese project to develop a copper mine.
The death tolls could not be independently verified.
There are around 38,000 US soldiers in Afghanistan in a foreign deployment of roughly 70,000 – with Britain and Germany the other top contributors.
Five German troops were wounded yesterday in a suicide car bomb attack targeting a German convoy in the northern province of Kunduz, said the defence ministry in Berlin.
The attack, claimed by the Taliban, came as German Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier and Afghan President Hamid Karzai discussed boosting troop numbers to secure an August election, the presidency announced.
Concerned about escalating violence in Afghanistan and widening Taliban control in nuclear-armed Pakistan, the United States and other countries have pledged more soldiers for Afghanistan.
Germany has 3,500 soldiers in NATO's International Security Assistance Force – the third-largest military contingent behind those of the United States and Britain.
The German parliament has voted to increase its deployment to 4,500.
Britain will boost its troops in Afghanistan to 9,000 to help the country through the elections, Prime Minister Gordon Brown said Wednesday, unveiling a new strategy for Afghanistan and Pakistan.
Turkey is also envisaging sending more soldiers to Afghanistan, on top of 800 infantry soldiers based in Kabul, army chief Ilker Basbug said.
And Australian Prime Minister Kevin Rudd announced yesterday he would increase his country's troop commitment by 450 soldiers to 1,550.
The Taliban threatened new suicide attacks in response to the imminent arrival of thousands of extra Western troops.
"Operation Nasrat" (Victory) would be launched today, and would also target Afghan officials and international diplomats, claimed Taliban spokesman Zabihullah Mujahid, who read out a statement to AFP over the telephone.
"Our targets will be the units of the invading forces, diplomatic stations, convoys, ranking officials of the puppet government, MPs, and employees of the defence, interior and intelligence ministries," it said.
The Taliban have previously issued warnings of new operations but military officials dismiss the significance of such threats.

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