As many as 1000 Afghan soldiers along with 300 US troops have been engaged for more than a week in the major operation against suspected Taliban and al-Qaeda bases in the Zabul province, 300km (190 miles) southwest of Kabul, AFP reported.

Soldiers were backed by US air support.
  
“Coalition forces continue to pursue anti-coalition forces. Operation Mountain Viper continues at the vicinity of Daychopan in Zabul province,” Colonel Rodney Davis told reporters at the coalition's Bagram Air Base headquarters north of Kabul.

“Enemy resistance in the last 24 hours has been relatively light,” he added.

Karky valley operation

US troops have been reconnoitring the villages around the Karky valley, 5km south of Daychopan, where they shot dead two suspected Taliban soldiers and captured a further two on Thursday.
 
“Our mission was to come in and destroy the Taliban sanctuary here in the southern part of Afghanistan," a US military spokesman told AFP at the Karky valley camp.

Afghan military and intelligence officials said up to 124 bodies had been recovered after the fighting in the remote and mountainous area.

"At the moment there are no enemy forces in the area anymore but you never know what is going to happen tomorrow"

US spokesman

Meanwhile, Pakistani military helicopters circled mountainous terrain neighbouring Afghanistan on Friday in an operation aimed at ensuring that the Taliban do not cross the border, an unidentified senior security source told AFP.

Helicopter sweeps
 
Residents reported some 15 helicopters flying in a 40km stretch between the north-western city of Bannu, the Afghan border to the west of the city and the nearby Kohat airbase.

A US spokesman said that a total of 5 Afghan government soldiers were killed in Operation Mountain Viper. One US soldier died in an accidental fall.

"The Taliban have escaped and we are in total control of Daychopan. At the moment there are no enemy forces in the area anymore but you never know what is going to happen tomorrow," he said.

Afghan authorities had said as many as 300 Taliban fighters were regrouping in the mountains in Zabul and neighbouring Uruzgan, the birthplace of the Taliban's fugitive spiritual leader Mullah Mohammad Omar.

Missile attacks

In a separate incident, 5 missiles were fired at the city of Gardez in the southeast Paktia province. A number of women and children were killed in the attack, an aljazeera reported.
 
Though the culprits were not identified, similar incidents have been blamed on Taliban remnants, their al-Qaeda allies or extremists loyal to renegade former premier Gulbuddin Hekmatyar.