Afghan officials: Taliban kill 13 troops in country's west

Afghan officials: Taliban kill at least 13 Afghan soldiers in days-long battle in western province

KABUL, Afghanistan -- Taliban insurgents overran several army checkpoints and killed at least 13 Afghan soldiers in battles that raged for three days in western Badghis province, provincial officials said Tuesday.

Jamshid Shahabi, the provincial governor's spokesman, said the fate of a dozen other soldiers was unknown.

He said the fighting erupted Saturday in Bala Murghab district, where the military carried out several airstrikes and sent reinforcements. Shahabi said 42 insurgents were killed and 15 troops were wounded in the fighting.

Mohammad Naser Nazari, a member of the provincial council, gave a higher casualty toll, however, saying 20 soldiers were killed and 20 others were missing.

In eastern Ghazni province, meanwhile, seven insurgents including their group leader were killed in a drone attack in Andar district, said Arif Noori, spokesman for the provincial governor.

However, dozens of people brought dead bodies near the governor's office in the provincial capital Ghazni, claiming that those killed in the attack were civilians.

Sgt. 1st Class Debra Richardson, a Resolute Support spokeswoman, said Tuesday's air strike in Ghazni targeted and killed seven Taliban fighters.

"The Taliban use dishonest propaganda to justify their continuing violence as well as to maintain morale within their ranks in the face of heavy losses," she said in a statement.

"A vehicle belonging to insurgents was targeted in which seven insurgents including their group leader were killed," said Noori, of the governor's office.

Shamsuddin, who like many Afghans uses only one name, told The Associated Press that all those killed were civilians and demanded an investigation.

In northern Samangan province, Taliban stormed a police checkpoint, killing four police, said Abdul Latif Ibrahimi, provincial governor.

He added that four other police were wounded and two are missing. The Taliban claimed responsibility for the attack in a statement sent to media.