Major John Thomas, ISAF spokesman, said: "They were clearly armed and they were clearly hostile and that is why they were engaged."
 
Isaf forces conducted reconnaissance to confirm their suspicions and the suspected Taliban fired on a US-led coalition aircraft, he said.

Major Donald Korpi, an Isaf spokesman for eastern Afghanistan, said "up to 60 Taliban were killed".

Thomas did not give a figure for the dead but did not dispute the toll, saying that such numbers were arrived at through various battle damage assessments.

Commanders in the area said it was the largest formation of Taliban fighters there since January, he added.
 
Kandahar battle

The US-coalition reported separately that soldiers working with Afghan troops had killed nearly 20 "enemy fighters" in a seven-hour battle in the southern province of Kandahar, the birthplace of the Taliban movement.

The attackers had initiated the battle by opening fire with machine guns, it said in a statement.

Several more fighters were reportedly killed in the adjoining province of Uruzgan when a firefight erupted after troops were shot at with multiple rockets.
 
Afghan reaction
 
"Afghan and coalition forces were conducting an operation against militants and a few rockets came in our area. One of the rockets hit a house in which nine people were killed"

Major-General Waheed Arshad, Pakistan military spokesman
Meanwhile, the Afghan president condemned civilian casualties caused by "indiscriminate and unprecise" Nato and US-led operations.
 
"Attacks causing civilian casualties, as I have said before, is not acceptable for us. It is no longer tolerated," Karzai said.

He said at least 90 civilians had been killed in just over a week, including 52 people in a three-day operation in the southern Uruzgan province. 

The Nato force said Karzai's figure was similar to its own, but that it was not clear if they had been killed by the security forces or Taliban fighters.

Karzai said that he had repeatedly asked foreign forces "to avoid unnecessary and unuseful operations".
  
"But unfortunately, despite our efforts, this has not been applied and our people have been killed and wounded."
 
Pakistan deaths
 
A Pakistani official said on Saturday that nine civilians had been killed in the North Waziristan tribal district by a rocket fired by "coalition forces" in Afghanistan.
 
"Afghan and coalition forces were conducting an operation against militants and a few rockets came in our area. One of the rockets hit a house in which nine people were killed," Major General Waheed Arshad, Pakistan military spokesman, told the AFP news agency.
   
"We have protested the incident and asked explanation from Afghan and coalition forces," Arshad said.
 
The interior ministry announced on Saturday that Afghan and foreign security forces had killed more than 1,500 suspected Taliban fighters in about 80 operations across the country since March.
 
About 530 more, including 23 would-be suicide bombers, had been captured, the ministry said in a statement.