Nato’s International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) said in a statement the Taliban fighters were killed in four different engagements from late Saturday into Sunday in the southern province of Kandahar.

Insurgents also suffered heavy losses when troops used artillery and close air support in a separate strike launched against them as they gathered to counterattack, it said.

"The counterattack was neutralised, inflicting severe losses on the insurgents," the statement said. The number of casualties was still being determined.

The strikes were part of the massive anti-Taliban offensive, Operation Medusa, which was launched on September 2 and has so far involved 2,000 Afghan and ISAF troops.

Danger zone

The latest deaths take the number of rebels announced as killed in the operation to 450.

Medusa is focussed on the Panjwayi district, about 35 km west of Kandahar city.

The district is one of the most entrenched strongholds in Afghanistan and has seen several deadly attacks on foreign troops and civilians.

ISAF said its forces had "also successfully disrupted insurgent re-supply routes around the area".

"By controlling routes and blocking insurgent rat-runs we are denying the insurgents the ability to safely reinforce their positions and bring in more ammunition, food and water," it said.

Elsewhere in Afghanistan on Sunday the governor of the southeastern Paktia province was killed when a bomber blew himself up outside the governor’s office in the provincial capital, Gardez.