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Twenty Taliban guerrillas were killed in the early stages of an operation by NATO and Afghan government forces Wednesday to flush the militant organization out of villages it seized earlier this week. But two Afghan officers also died in the fighting, which was expected to last up to three days. Speaking by phone, a Taliban spokesman said the objective of the guerrillas, many of whom broke out of prison a week ago, was Kandahar, the nation's second-largest city, about 12 miles from the scene of the fighting.

At least 63 people died in the worst bombing in Baghdad in three months, but the Iraqi government said Wednesday that the attack only stiffens its resolve "to maintain the security achievements." So far, there has been no claim of responsibility for the blast in a Shiite neighborhood, and – based on the method and explosive used – US military spokesmen said they did not believe Al Qaeda was behind it. They blamed a renegade group and suggested it was trying to incite new sectarian violence between Shiites and Sunni Muslims.

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