1 Apr 2009

Thirty insurgents killed in Afghan clash

3:15 pm on 1 April 2009

Afghan authorities say police and international forces have killed 30 insurgents in fighting in southern Afghanistan.

The Interior Ministry says a well-known Taliban commander, Mullah Mohammad Yaqoub, is among the dead. Seventeen insurgents were also injured.

The ministry says the security operation began on Monday in the Uruzgan province of Afghanistan, and continued on Tuesday in neighbouring Helmand.

Meanwhile, United States Secretary of State Hillary Clinton says she supports reconciliation talks between the Afghan government and moderate sections of the Taliban.

Mrs Clinton, speaking in The Hague at one-day meeting involving 70 countries and other organisations interested in rebuilding Afghanistan, says many Taliban fighters do not share the organisation's fundamental views.

She also said the US envoy to Afghanistan held a "cordial exchange" with Iran's deputy foreign minister, Mohammad Mehdi Akhoondzadeh, on the sidelines of the meeting.

The biggest challenge to the initiative is that Afghanistan's regional neighbours - Iran, China, the Central Asian republics, India and Pakistan - do not agree how to achieve Afghan stability, or even whether they should help at all, the BBC reports.

Last week, US President Barack Obama announced a fundamental rethink of US strategy in Afghanistan and Pakistan to combat an "increasingly perilous" situation.

Mr Obama said growing radical forces in the area posed the greatest threat to the American people and the world.

Promising an extra 4,000 US personnel to train and bolster the Afghan army and police, he also vowed support for civilian development.