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7 Afghan militants killed in US-led coalition raid

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[March 17, 2009]  KABUL (AP) -- U.S.-led coalition troops killed seven militants and detained three others during a raid on a bomb-making cell in southern Afghanistan, where insurgents earlier killed an Australian soldier, officials said Tuesday.

RestaurantTroops targeted the militants in a compound in Kandahar province's Khakrez district early Tuesday, a coalition statement said. Those killed were suspected of involvement in attacks on coalition and Afghan forces.

Southern Afghanistan is the center of the Taliban insurgency. The U.S. is sending thousands of new troops to the south this year to try to reverse Taliban gains. The Islamic militants have made a violent comeback the last three years following an apparent initial defeat after the 2001 U.S. invasion.

Separately, Taliban militants ambushed a police patrol in Kandahar's Panjwayi district, killing five officers and damaging their vehicle, said Bismillah Khan, a police officer.

On Monday, officials said, an Australian soldier serving with NATO-led forces died of wounds sustained in an insurgent attack in the southern province of Uruzgan, which borders Kandahar.

The soldier, in a joint Australian-Afghan army patrol, was shot during a "very intense firefight" with 20 Taliban insurgents, Australia's Air Chief Marshal Angus Houston said Tuesday. The soldier's name has not been released.

Australia has about 1,000 troops in Afghanistan, the largest contribution outside NATO. The clash followed a surge in violence in Afghanistan last weekend that led to the deaths of eight other foreign troops, including four Americans.

The spike in violence is an early indication that insurgent attacks are likely to surge as some 17,000 U.S. forces arrive this year to bolster the record 38,000 Americans already in Afghanistan.

In Kabul, President Hamid Karzai led mourners during a burial ceremony for a former Afghan president killed in a coup three decades ago that led to 10 years of Soviet domination.

President Sardar Mohammad Daud Khan and 17 family members and associates were executed inside the presidential palace in Kabul during a communist-inspired coup in 1978. Their bodies were discovered last year.

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Tuesday's ceremony was held inside the same heavily guarded palace. An honor guard carried the coffins of Daud Khan and his brother as Karzai, his allies and political opponents sat in silence alongside international ambassadors.

After the execution of Daud Khan and his family, their bodies were taken to a secret location east of the capital. Their whereabouts remained a mystery until a former army general involved in the burial came forward earlier this year and identified the spot.

A small golden Quran -- a gift given to Daud Khan by Saudi Arabia's king -- was found with his remains and helped authorities identify the body.

Soviet troops rolled into Afghanistan in late December 1979. They occupied the country for 10 years but were forced to leave as the Soviet Union was breaking up in 1989.

[Associated Press; By FISNIK ABRASHI]

Copyright 2009 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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