ARGHANDAB, Afghanistan -- Afghan and Canadian forces moved into villages outside Kandahar on Wednesday to root out Taliban militants, killing at least 23 insurgents, while an explosion elsewhere killed four British soldiers, officials said.
Troops in Arghandab district just outside of Kandahar, southern Afghanistan's largest city, exchanged fire with militants during "a few minor contacts," NATO spokesman Mark Laity said.
The Afghan Defense Ministry said more than 20 Taliban fighters had been killed in Tabin, a village in Arghandab, while three other fighters were killed in second village. Two Afghan soldiers also were killed, the ministry said in a statement.
A top provincial official in Kandahar, Ahmed Wali Karzai, the brother of Afghan President Hamid Karzai, said hundreds of families had fled to the city, and that some of the villages had already been cleared of Taliban.
Helicopters and jets patrolled the skies and smoke rose from fields after exchanges of fire, an Associated Press reporter at the scene said. A helicopter landed in a field near the fighting and appeared to evacuate a casualty, he said. Large Canadian military vehicles and Afghan police trucks were moving through the region.