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05.06.2006 International

Five Taleban killed as British troops join raid on Afghan village


BRITISH soldiers have killed five suspected Taleban fighters in an operation in Afghanistan's troubled Helmand province.

The troops joined coalition forces for the raid on a village in the south-west of the country.

A Ministry of Defence spokesman said last night the operation was looking for evidence of Taleban militants. "There has been a coalition-led cordon-and-search operation involving UK troops in Nowzad in north Helmand. Five Taleban have been killed and two detained. There were no UK casualties."

British forces are in Afghanistan as part of an international effort to bring stability to the war-torn country. Helmand province is still seen as a haven for Taleban militants and is the country's main opium poppy-growing region.

Earlier yesterday, NATO pledged to double the number of troops in southern Afghanistan to 6,000 when it takes over security from US forces next month, in an attempt to quell the worst rebel violence since the fall of the Taleban in 2001.

But the British commander, Lieutenant-General David Richards, said that the incoming troops would be more "people-friendly" in an effort to win over locals amid rising resentment toward the US-led coalition.

There was no let-up in the fighting, meanwhile, with at least 28 people killed, including four in an attempt to blow up Kandahar's provincial governor.