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Aug. 2 (Bloomberg) -- At least 22 Afghan policemen and 76 Taliban militants were killed today in clashes over a besieged tribal elder in eastern Afghanistan, according to a local official.

The deaths followed an attack by dozens of Taliban guerrillas on the leader’s residence in the Sherzad district of Nangahar province, Ahmadzia Abdulzai, a spokesman for the province, said in a telephone interview. The guerrillas were armed with light and heavy weapons, he said.

“We rescued the tribal elder by killing 16 Afghan and Pakistani Taliban fighters on the ground,” he said.

As the police forces left the area, he said, they were ambushed by more than 100 Taliban guerrillas who killed the 22 policemen. In the ensuing clashes, an additional 60 Taliban militants were killed and dozens were wounded.

A Taliban spokesman, Zabihullah Mujahed, confirmed the clashes in an e-mailed statement while saying that only five Taliban fighters were killed and four were wounded.

Taliban attacks are increasing as U.S.-led combat forces hand over control of the war to their Afghan counterparts in advance of plans to depart by the end of next year. The country’s Interior Ministry said almost 300 Afghan policemen were killed and 618 wounded in June, a 22 percent increase from the same period a year earlier, during operations and clashes with Taliban fighters. The ministry estimated that the militants’ casualties were more than double the police’s.

A report by the United Nations mission in Afghanistan said that more than 1,300 Afghan civilians were killed and 2,533 wounded in the war in the first half of this year, a 23 percent increase from the previous year. It attributed 74 percent of the deaths to the Taliban insurgency.

To contact the reporter on this story: Eltaf Najafizada in New Delhi at

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Rosalind Mathieson at

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