KABUL, Afghanistan, June 8 (UPI) -- Up to 60 Taliban militants died in Afghanistan during the past week as more U.S. troops arrived in the country, Afghan security officials said.
The militants, including some key commanders, were killed in the heightened anti-insurgency offensive by local and foreign forces in the southern Zabul province, the Voice of America reported quoting the security officials.
The offensive comes as the United States began deploying about 7,000 troops across southern Afghanistan to combat rising violence in the region. The troops are part of the 21,000 additional forces U.S. President Barack Obama plans to send to Afghanistan.
In the latest fighting, Zabul Police Chief General Abdul Rehman Sarjang told VOA security forces targeted militant hideouts in all of the province's districts. Two local soldiers also died in the fighting, he said.
Sarjang, disputing Taliban charges those killed were civilians, said the bodies of all dead militants were handed over to tribal elders and religious scholars for burial, the report said.
Officials in Pakistan, which is close to some of the southern Afghan provinces, say they are concerned about the U.S. deployment, the report said.
While Pakistani officials claim insurgents fleeing from Afghanistan are taking refuge in their country, critics of Pakistan charge the insurgents are using Pakistani territory to launch attacks on foreign troops in Afghanistan.
Richard Holbrooke, U.S. Special envoy for Pakistan and Afghanistan, has assured Pakistani officials the United States will look into their concerns, the VOA report said.