Source AP ©

Several Taliban weapon smugglers killed in US-led coalition airstrikes in Afghanistan

U.S.-led coalition airstrike killed several Taliban weapon smugglers in southern Afghanistan. Afghan and NATO-led troops continue to conduct the siege of a contested town.

Several militants were killed and two civilians were wounded in the coalition airstrike and ensuing operation Sunday in the Musa Qala district of Helmand province, the coalition said in a statement.

"The combined force detained 10 people suspected of having links to insurgent weapons facilitation networks," it said.

Following the airstrike, the joint Afghan and coalition forces came under attack as they searched compounds in the area.

"Using a combination of accurate, conventional munitions and small arms, the combined force returned fire, killing the militants," the statement said.

In neighboring Sangin district, Afghan police clashed with a group of Taliban militants Monday, leaving 15 militants dead and 11 others wounded, said district police chief Mohammad Ali.

Authorities recovered some of the dead militants bodies, Ali said. There were no casualties among Afghan troops, he said.

The clashes happened as Afghan, British and U.S. troops closed in on Musa Qala, a Taliban-held town in southern Afghanistan. A statement from the Afghan Defense Ministry said Monday the joint forces were a kilometer (less than a mile) away from the town.

On Sunday, the Defense Ministry said that Taliban fighters in Musa Qala should lay down their weapons or face a "wave of attacks."

A Musa Qala resident said Taliban fighters were surrounded and had been pushed back into the town's center. Haji Mohammad Rauf said "fierce fighting" was taking place between the forces.

Taliban militants took over Musa Qala in February, four months after British troops left the town following a contentious peace agreement that gave security responsibilities to Afghan elders.

NATO and Afghan troops have stepped up operations there in recent weeks and appear poised to take back the town from the hundreds of Taliban and foreign fighters who have controlled it this year. Musa Qala is in northern Helmand province, the world's largest poppy growing region - and the front line of Afghanistan's bloodiest fighting this year.

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