KANDAHAR, Afghanistan -- Coalition and Afghan forces hunting a Taliban commander raided a militant sanctuary yesterday , killing an estimated 30 fighters before blowing up a helicopter damaged in an emergency landing.
Victims of another attack in the volatile south that killed 40 militants a day earlier said civilians, including children, were among the dead and wounded. The US military said it had no information on any civilian casualties from Monday's air raids in Uruzgan's provincial capital of Tirin Kot.
Visiting Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld and President Hamid Karzai discussed the spike in violence in Afghanistan the last several months.
Rumsfeld said resurgent Taliban forces ``won't succeed," while Karzai stressed his country needed continued US support, particularly to strengthen Afghanistan's weak police force.
More than four years after a US-led invasion toppled the Taliban regime for hosting Osama bin Laden, Afghanistan is gripped by its deadliest spate of militant violence. More than 10,000 coalition forces have launched a massive military campaign to try to neutralize the insurgent threat.
Yesterday's raid targeted a Taliban commander in southern Helmand province's Sangin district and killed at least 30 insurgents, the military said in a statement, describing the toll as an estimate. It was unclear if the commander was among those killed.
Coalition officials declined to identify the nationalities of the troops involved, but US and British troops operate in Helmand, a Taliban stronghold.
The military said they attacked the site after receiving tip offs from detained insurgents. A weapons cache also was destroyed.
As the troops left the area, a malfunctioning helicopter was damaged ``beyond repair" in an emergency landing and subsequently destroyed by a coalition airstrike. No coalition or Afghan forces were hurt.
The raid was the second in two days that US forces said caused large militant losses. Monday in Tirin Kot, more than 40 militants were said to have died when US warplanes bombed the area.
But eyewitnesses, including an Afghan woman with face and leg injuries, said at least four civilians were killed and several homes destroyed by at least two helicopter gunships that fired on the town.
Lying in a hospital in neighboring Kandahar province, Didi Feroza said she was awakened early Monday by a loud explosion and went to her roof to see helicopter gunships firing over Tirin Kot.
``I ran outside with my 6-year-old niece to get away and was hit by shrapnel," Feroza, one of three wounded women in hospital, told an Associated Press reporter. ``I turned around and saw my niece had been hit and she was dead."
Feroza said she also saw Taliban militants fleeing the area.
Nida Mohammed, who accompanied a wounded relative to the hospital, said two of his nephews, 8 and 10, and his 30-year-old brother-in-law were killed.
``I saw women, men and children killed and wounded," Mohammed said. ``Ten to 12 homes were totally destroyed. We are innocent people who don't help the Taliban, but they destroyed our homes."
US officials said they were unaware of any civilian casualties, while Uruzgan's provincial governor declined to comment.