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Dozens killed in Afghan battle

Victims include 2 UK soldiers, 4 Afghans, 29 Taliban militants



Hamid Karzai

(CNN) -- Two British soldiers, four Afghan soldiers and 29 Taliban militants were killed in recent fighting across southern Afghanistan, U.S. and Afghan authorities said on Tuesday.

All of this comes during an upsurge of violence across the country between Taliban militants and forces of the U.S.-led coalition and the Afghanistan government.

Gen. Rahmatullah Raufi, commander of Afghan forces in the south, said two soldiers were killed when an Afghan army patrol was attacked on Tuesday near Qalat in southeastern Afghanistan.

"In a firefight that followed 11 Taliban were killed, including a local Taliban commander," the general said.

Maj. Quentin Innes, a Canadian Army spokesman, said an attack on a coalition-Afghan patrol in Musa Qala area of northern Helmand province on Monday resulted in the killings of eight Taliban militants and two Afghan Army soldiers.

Coalition and Afghan National Army troops on Monday killed 10 "extremists" in a raid on suspected Taliban compound in Uruzgan province in southern Afghanistan, according to the Combined Forces Command.

The command said the compound -- located in the province's Shahidi Hass district -- belongs "to a known weapons and improvised explosive device facilitator in Saghaytu village."

The British Ministry of Defense said two British soldiers were killed in fighting overnight in northern Helmand province.

Another soldier was wounded incident in the Sangin Valley when a British patrol was attacked.

British Defense Secretary Des Browne said "it is with great sadness that I must confirm the deaths of two of our brave soldiers in Afghanistan. My deepest sympathies are with their families and loved ones."

With the deaths, 10 British forces have died while fighting in Afghanistan since 2002.

The Central Command air forces on Tuesday reported several engagements on Monday.

U.S. Air Force A-10s and Royal Air Force GR-7s "provided close air support to coalition forces taking small arms and rocket-propelled grenade fire from Taliban extremists in the vicinity of Gereshk" in Helmand province. It said the A-10s carried out "strafing passes expending cannon rounds."

Also, U.S. Air Force A-10s and a B-1B, and a French M2000 and F-1 "also provided close air support to troops "in contact with enemy forces in the vicinity of Ghazni."

And it said A-10s backed up troops in the vicinity of Uruzgan.

The latest violence comes amid a heavy push by U.S.-led coalition forces to rout out Taliban insurgents and extend Kabul's rule into eastern and southern Afghanistan.

But the coalition has warned that major battles will come as Taliban fighters resist the push to sweep those regions clear ahead of a security handover to NATO-led International Security Assistance Force later this summer, military officials said.

"We are seeing the enemy operating in larger groups. They are fighting hard. They are clearly trying to stop our efforts to move into certain areas," coalition spokesman Col. Tom Collins said last week at a news conference in Kabul.

Operation Mountain Thrust began in earnest earlier this month with more than 10,000 Afghan, British, Canadian and American troops deploying throughout four southern provinces to crush a resurgent Taliban force in the largest military operation since the former regime's 2001 ouster.

Afghan President Hamid Karzai said Sunday that the Taliban, the militant group ousted from power more than four years ago, is incapable of making a comeback.

Karzai, in an exclusive interview on CNN's "Late Edition," denounced former Taliban leader Mullah Mohammed Omar after a Pakistani TV station aired an audiotape it said was from Omar.

While Karzai acknowledged Taliban attacks against schools, children, clergy and workers, he said, "They are no match for our power."

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