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Taliban members killed in southern Afghanistan

  • Helmand's deputy governor says purpose of the mission was mine-clearing
  • The operation came as U.S., UK forces gear up for a major push in Helmand
  • In Kandahar province, local authorities say police shot seven civilians Thursday

Kabul, Afghanistan (CNN) -- At least 16 Taliban members were killed during an Afghan/NATO-led military operation in southern Afghanistan, a local official told CNN on Saturday.

The operation started Friday night in Babji village of volatile Helmand province -- the region where U.S. and British forces are gearing up for a major push against militants.

Abdul Satar Merzakwal, Helmand's deputy governor, said the purpose of the mission was mine-clearing.

In neighboring Kandahar province, local authorities on Saturday reported the shooting of civilians by police along the Afghan-Pakistan border in the Spin Boldak area two days ago.

Gen. Mohammad Raziq Kandahar, commander of Kandahar's border authorities, said police killed seven civilians who were collecting firewood in an area where militants have a presence.

Six police officers were detained who said that they shot the civilians mistakenly because they thought they were insurgents, he said.

Violence has raged in southern Afghanistan this week. Two days ago, 32 Taliban died in another Helmand operation, and a suicide car bomber in Kandahar city killed two people and wounded around one dozen more -- all civilians.

And on Friday, security forces killed three insurgents in the Deh Ghawchak area of Helmand's Musa Qaleh district

In eastern Afghanistan, Tahir Khan Sabari, the Khost province deputy governor, said a suicide car bomber detonated near a convoy of NATO's International Security Assistance Force. The blast damaged an ISAF vehicle and the attacker was the only casualty.