Afghan soldiers kill seven Taliban militants

Afghan soldiers have killed seven Taliban militants during a six-hour battle in southern Afghanistan while a roadside bomb left three villagers dead, officials said Monday. Another six Taliban members, six civilians and one Afghan soldier were wounded in Sunday's fighting in the Sangin district of Helmand province, 350 kilometers (220 miles) southwest of the Afghan capital, Kabul, said Defense Ministry spokesman Zahar Azini.

Azini said U.S.-led coalition forces, including aircraft, attacked two houses where the militants were holed up, eventually destroying both in a fierce battle in which the Taliban fighters used rocket propelled-grenades, mortars and heavy machine guns, Azini said. It was not immediately clear if the wounded Taliban militants were captured, Azini said.

Elsewhere in Helmand, a roadside bomb killed three villagers including a woman and wounded two others when it blew up their car on Monday, said deputy Gov. Amir Mohammed Khunzada. Helmand province is one of Afghanistan's most violent regions and its main opium poppy growing area. An upsurge of violence in Afghanistan during the past year led either by feuding drug gangs or Taliban rebels has left large areas off-limits to aid workers and raised concerns for the country four years after the ouster of the Taliban in a U.S.-led invasion, reports the AP.

N.U.