Afghan security forces said they killed a Taliban commander involved in the kidnapping of South Korean church workers - less than a week after the captives were released under a deal with Seoul seen as a propaganda coup for the insurgents.
A Taliban spokesman denied Tuesday that any of its commanders had been killed, and accused the government of lying about other battlefield losses.
Afghan and US-led coalition forces said at least 39 suspected insurgents were killed in clashes since Monday, while suicide blasts killed three police officers.
The Taliban commander, Mullah Mateen, was killed along with 16 other militants in clashes late Monday and early Tuesday in the central province of Ghazni, where the insurgents seized 23 South Koreans on July 19, said Ghazni Deputy Gov. Kazim Allayar and a senior police officer.