- Associated Press - Tuesday, August 24, 2010

KABUL, Afghanistan (AP) — Afghan and international forces have killed about 40 Taliban fighters east of the Afghan capital as part of operations to provide security ahead of parliamentary elections next month, NATO said Tuesday.

One coalition soldier also was killed in fighting in the volatile south, where the insurgency is entrenched most heavily, the coalition reported. The soldier’s nationality was not identified.

A total of 48 foreign troops have been killed in Afghanistan this month, including 30 Americans, according to a count by the Associated Press.

Fighting in Kabul province began Friday, involving Afghan, U.S. and French troops and both air and ground assaults, the coalition said. Eight Taliban leaders were captured, and a large quantity of explosives and other weapons destroyed, it said.

Troops were taking the fight to the insurgents in an area where they “used to feel pretty secure operating in,” Brig. Gen. Steve Townsend, the U.S. deputy commander in eastern Afghanistan, was quoted as saying in a news release.

No coalition casualties have been reported in the operation, NATO said.

Insurgents have attacked government workers and threatened voters to derail Afghanistan’s electoral process. Despite heavy security for presidential polls last year, turnout was low and the result marred by allegations of widespread voter fraud.

Elections for 249 seats in the lower house of parliament are scheduled for Sept. 18.

Heavy fighting overnight also was reported in the southwestern provinces of Nimroz and Uruzgan, adjoining the insurgent strongholds of Helmand and Kandahar provinces. Numerous Taliban were killed, but the Afghan police and army managed to avoid casualties, according to an army news release and Nimroz police Chief Abdul Jabbar Pardali.

Also Tuesday, NATO said it was investigating allegations that eight civilians were killed and 12 injured in a coalition raid on a remote mountain village in the northern province of Baghlan.

The chief of Baghlan’s Tala Wabarfak district, Mohammad Ismail, said the deaths — six men, one woman and one child — reportedly came in the early hours of Sunday morning in the village of Tergaran.

Villagers told him troops flown in aboard five or six helicopters also destroyed several houses during the five-hour operation, Mr. Ismail said. Two people reportedly were arrested and taken away, he said, adding that the Taliban on occasion has been active in the area, a 10-hour walk from the nearest town, over which the government exercises little influence.

NATO said U.S. troops fired warning shots on Monday to disperse a protest near the main coalition air base in Afghanistan over the arrest of a religious leader suspected of a rocket attack.

The alliance said no civilian injuries were reported from the demonstration, but Gen. Faqir Ahmad, the deputy police chief of Parwan province, said one civilian was killed by gunfire from an unknown source.

NATO said about 300 people surrounded a patrol and attacked vehicles with rocks and iron bars outside Bagram Air Base, which is located in Parwan.

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