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Taliban threatens spring offensive

Associated Press

KABUL — A top Taliban commander warned today that militants would unleash a wave of ambushes, roadside bombs and suicide attacks in a new spring offensive in Afghanistan.

In a possible harbinger of coming violence, coalition and Afghan troops killed 42 militants in three operations, officials said.

Mullah Berader, a deputy to Taliban leader Mullah Omar, said the Taliban plans to launch a new offensive Thursday against international and Afghan troops, government officials and “whoever is supporting invaders in our country.”

British Prime Minister Gordon Brown says he'll temporarily send 700 extra troops to Afghanistan to boost security for August elections. Mr. Brown told legislators that Britain will increase its forces from 8,300 to 9,000, but will reduce numbers to current levels by November.

He said the troop increase forms part of a tougher approach to security in the border areas of both Afghanistan and Pakistan, a region he said is a “crucible of terrorism.”

Taliban militants have increased attacks in the past three years after what appeared to be an initial defeat of the radical group, which was toppled from power by the 2001 U.S.-led invasion. U.S. President Barack Obama has ordered 21,000 additional U.S. troops to the country to bolster the record 38,000 American forces already in the country.

“As American and NATO countries plan to send more troops to Afghanistan, it is necessary for the Afghans and Afghan mujahedeen to defend their country,” militant spokesman Zabiullah Mujahid said in a statement he attributed to Mr. Berader.

Taliban commanders in the past have made boasts of impending violence — such as hundreds or thousands of suicide bombers waiting to attack around the country — that never materialized. But Mr. Berader's comparatively measured threat could signal a start point to more aggressive attacks this year.

In the latest series of battles, coalition and Afghan forces killed 42 militants today in three clashes, the U.S. military said.

In the largest battle, a convoy of Afghan police and forces with the U.S.-led coalition came under fire from multiple sides during a patrol in southern Uruzgan province, the military said. The troops fired back and called in air support, killing 23 insurgents.

Nine militants were killed when troops came under attack during a search operation in neighbouring Helmand province, and another 10 in fighting that broke out southwest of Kabul when international and Afghan forces attacked compounds believed to belong to Taliban operatives, the coalition said.

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