KABUL, Afghanistan (AP) _ Afghan and international forces clashed with Taliban insurgents in two separate gun battles in the south and west, leaving 13 militants dead and four other people wounded, officials said Tuesday.
The latest violence came as Afghan officials claimed their forces have trapped up to 200 Taliban in a southern village, possibly including the militia's military commander, Mullah Dadullah, a claim later denied by the Taliban.
After a winter lull in the violence, Afghan, NATO and U.S.-led forces have stepped up operations in recent weeks, hoping to pre-empt a feared spring offensive by militants that threatened the already shaky grip of President Hamid Karzai's government.
Afghan and coalition forces launched an overnight operation late Monday in Bakwa district in western Farah province, said a spokesman for the provincial police chief Baryalai Khan. He said two suspected militants were killed and two wounded, while two police personnel were also wounded, and eight suspected militants arrested in the ongoing operation.
Acting on a tip in the volatile southern province of Zabul, Afghan army and NATO troops surrounded Taliban militants Monday evening and asked that they surrender, said regional Afghan army commander Gen. Rahmetullah Raufi.
The Taliban opened fire, and the ensuing battle left 11 Taliban dead, but there were no casualties among Afghan or NATO troops, Raufi said.
Meanwhile in the relatively calm north, a bomb exploded outside the Sari Pul provincial governor's home Tuesday morning, but no one was killed or wounded, said the governor, Eqbal Munib. He said it was the third bomb targeting him in the past year.
Unlike the south and the east where a Taliban insurgency rages, attacks in the north are rare. In March in Sari Pul, two gunmen killed a German aid worker and robbed his three Afghan colleagues after stopping their two vehicles in the district of Sayyad.
Afghan police and government officials said up to 200 suspected Taliban had been surrounded in the mountain village of Keshay in Uruzgan province after they had gathered for a meeting and then clashed with Afghan forces on Saturday.
Deputy Interior Minster for Security Abdul Hadi Khalid told a security commission in Parliament on Monday it was ``possible that Mullah Dadullah is among'' those who were attending the meeting.
He said Afghan officials had demanded that the Taliban surrender or face military action. He did not mention any deadline for them to surrender.
Provincial police chief Gen. Mohammad Qasim Khan said NATO troops were also involved in the siege, but NATO and the U.S.-led coalition said Tuesday they had no information to support the Afghans' account and denied their troops were involved in such an operation.
A Taliban spokesman in the south, Qari Yousef Ahmadi, said the Taliban were not trapped and that Dadullah was not in the area.
Killing or capturing Dadullah, a close aide to Taliban supreme leader Mullah Omar and a commander with a reputation for ruthlessness, would be a major victory for the Afghan government and its foreign backers, who have struggled to contain the insurgency.