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Afghan Forces Battle Taliban For Fifth Day In Northwest

FILE: An Afghan National Army soldier handles a rocket-propelled grenade launcher as he keeps watch during a patrol in Bala Murghab district of northwestern province of Badghis.

Afghan security forces are battling the Taliban for a fifth day after the militants launched a major attack in the northwestern province of Badghis.

The Defense Ministry said in April 8 statement that at least 12 security personnel had been killed in the past 48 hours in clashes in the Bala Murghab district, bringing the overall death toll to more than 40.

The ministry said another 10 soldiers and 24 policemen were wounded, while "99 Taliban terrorists" were killed.

Fighting has raged since hundreds of Taliban militants stormed Bala Murghab late on April 3, overrunning several security checkpoints.

Over the weekend, Afghan and NATO forces conducted air strikes in support of ground forces.

Mohammad Nasir Nazari, a provincial council member, said army commandos and special-police units were battling to clear the militants from the district.

Bala Murghab has been the scene of weeks of fierce clashes.

Last month, 50 government soldiers were killed during a weeklong battle in the district.

Nazari said 100 Afghan soldiers fled their posts and tried to cross into neighboring Turkmenistan during the battle in mid-March.

Many were captured by Taliban fighters after Turkmen government forces prevented them from crossing the border safely.

Based on reporting by AP and AFP