Speaking to Khyber TV by satellite phone from an undisclosed location, Taliban spokesman Mufti Latif Allah Hakimi said on Thursday that - contrary to numerous media reports - no battles had taken place in Zabul or Kandahar.

"If the Americans say they are bombing and killing dozens of people, then it shows that they must be killing ordinary people. I assure you we have not taken part in any battles in the places that are being bombed", Hakimi said.

But Kandahar's provincial police chief, Muhammad Ayub Salangi, told Aljazeera.net on Thursday that his forces had killed dozens of insurgents and that he was sure of their identity as Taliban fighters.

"We have no doubts at all. Our forces on the ground have so far counted 76 Taliban bodies and not all have been counted. I'm sure we got a lot more", Salangi said.

Pointing out that three Afghan policemen were also killed in the two-day battle on Tuesday and Wednesday in southern Afghanistan, Salangi asked "if they were not fighting Taliban, who shot at them?".

Afghan police and US troops were still combing valleys in a small area on the borders of Kandahar, Zabul and Uruzgan provinces where the insurgents are thought to be hiding, he added.

US offensive

According to the US military, the forces it leads in Afghanistan are trying to curb a comeback by the Taliban since the beginning of the year that has cost the lives of more than 400 people, most of them insurgents.
 

Taliban spokesman Mulla Latif
Allah did not disclose his location

Fifteen US soldiers have also been killed by hostile fire since the beginning of 2005.

The renewed attacks were initially dismissed as a brief spurt of rebel activity after Afghanistan's harshest winter for a decade.

But officials have since said the Taliban are making a concerted effort to disrupt important legislative polls due in September.

Taliban were toppled from power three and a half years ago by US forces and a group of ethnic-Uzbek and Tajik commanders after Kabul failed to surrender Usama bin Ladin.