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35 Suspected Taliban Killed In Afghanistan

Afghan security forces clashed with suspected Taliban insurgents in southern Afghanistan, and a subsequent air strike killed 35 militants, an official said Thursday.

Two Canadian soldiers were also killed Wednesday in a bomb attack in southern Afghanistan as NATO military leaders met in Canada to ask for more resources for their fight in the volatile south.

Afghan security forces were ambushed and battled militants for about an hour in the Shahjoy district of Zabul province late Wednesday before an air strike was called in on militant positions, said Ali Kheil, a spokesman for Zabul's governor.

Authorities recovered the bodies of 35 militants along with 20 motorbikes and the militants' weapons, Kheil said. No casualties were reported among the Afghan security forces.

U.S.-led coalition and NATO officials did not immediately comment on the attack, and the number of casualties could not be independently verified due to the remoteness of the area.

Separately, a roadside bomb targeting a police patrol in Zabul's Shinkay district killed a policeman and wounded four others late Wednesday, Kheil said.

Also Wednesday, a bomb blast in the south killed two Canadian soldiers and wounded three others, said Col. Mike Cessford, deputy commander of the Canadian contingent in Afghanistan.

Cessford did not disclose the exact location of the attack. Most of the Canadian troops in the NATO-led force in Afghanistan are based in the volatile southern province of Kandahar.

The blast occurred three days after a roadside bomb killed six Canadian troops in the south. It was the single worst combat loss in Afghanistan for the Canadians, who have lost 53 soldiers and a diplomat in the country, according to the Canadian military.

There are about 2,500 Canadian troops in the 36,000-strong NATO force in Afghanistan.

As NATO pushes forward with its biggest-ever anti-Taliban offensive in southern Afghanistan, U.S. Defense Secretary Robert Gates was in Canada on Thursday to press allies to contribute more forces, equipment and other resources to Afghanistan.

Gates was set to meet with military leaders from Britain, Canada, Australia, the Netherlands, Denmark and Romania — all partners in southern Afghanistan.

NATO and the U.S. have made repeated calls for additional resources from allies, but have met resistance from some, including the French and Germans, who questioned the wisdom of sending more troops to Afghanistan.

Each year Taliban fighters have stepped up their attacks as the spring thaw begins. But this year, Gates said NATO should take the offensive and bring the fight first to the militants.

The initial phase of the assault began last month with Operation Achilles, in which more than 5,500 NATO and Afghan troops went into the opium-producing province of Helmand to battle hardcore Taliban insurgents.