Miana Shien, Afghanistan — The bodies of 76 suspected rebels were found in the mountains of southern Afghanistan, the Defense Ministry said Saturday, bringing to 178 the number of insurgents killed in one of the deadliest bombardments by U.S. and Afghan forces since the Taliban fell in 2001.
U.S. military officers and Afghan officials, meanwhile, met near the mountainous battlefield with dozens of local tribal chiefs to urge them to help combat militants still holding out.
Though no major fighting has occurred in or around Miana Shien district since three days of airstrikes ended Thursday, about 80 rebels are believed to be still hiding in the mountains. They include two well-known Taliban commanders - Mullah Dadullah and Mullah Brader.
Defense Ministry spokesman Zahir Marad said that 56 suspected insurgents were captured as security forces pushed further into the rugged terrain and that troops were still pursuing rebels fleeing on horseback and motorcycle.
The U.S. military's toll of insurgents killed was much lower, at 56, but spokesman Lt. Col. Jerry O'Hara said this did not necessarily make the government's figure wrong, because Afghan forces had taken the lead in the operation and U.S.-led coalition troops were finding it hard to count the dead.