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    35 militants killed in Paktika offensive; Taliban deny

    SHARAN (PAN): Thirty-five militants were killed during a joint operation by Afghan and foreign troops in the Urgon district of southeastern Paktika province, officials said on Thursday.

    But the Taliban rejected the claim as baseless, saying 10 Afghan and three foreign troops were killed in attacks by insurgents in the district.

    The governor's spokesman, Mukhlis Afghan, said they had intelligence reports that 35 militants had been killed and the bodies of 20 insurgents seized by security forces.

    The operation was carried out at around 8pm Wednesday night and stretched into the morning, Afghan said.

    The joint forces had launched a search operation to kill or arrest the remaining fighters, he said.

    The dead included some foreign fighters who had sneaked into the district from Pakistan, the gubernatorial spokesman said, adding two Afghan army soldiers and one foreign soldier were wounded during the operation.

    But a Taliban spokesman, Zabihullah Mujahid, denied the fighters had suffered casualties. The fighters ambushed a joint convoy of Afghan and foreign troops in the Pirkoti area, killing six local and three foreign soldiers, he claimed.

    He said the firefight lasted three hours. Another seven local and five foreign soldiers were injured during the attack, Mujahid said.

    A resident of Surkh area, Hameed, said a police vehicle was blown up in the Pirkoti area, leaving three policemen dead.

    The governor's spokesman also confirmed the incident, saying only two policemen sustained minor injuries in the blast. But Mujahid said four policemen were killed.