Author: By Fisnik Abrashi and Rahim Faiez, AP
US forces called in airstrikes to end the clash, killing more than 30
insurgents in Zerok district of Paktika province, said Hamidullah Zawak, the
provincial governor spokesman. Seven US and two Afghan troops were wounded,
a US military spokesman said.
The multi-pronged attack near the Pakistan border is hundreds of miles from
the massive Marine assault in southern Afghanistan and underscores the
militants’ ability to inflict casualties on the over-stretched US forces as
they widen their battle against the Taliban, who have made a violent
comeback following their initial defeat in the American-led 2001 invasion.
Responding to the deteriorating security situation, President Barack Obama’s
administration has ordered 21,000 additional troops to Afghanistan and
expects the total number of US forces there to reach 68,000 by year’s end.
That is double the number of troops in Afghanistan in 2008 but still half as
many as are now in Iraq.
As part of the new strategy, 4,000 Marines poured into volatile Helmand
province on Thursday in the biggest US military operation here since 2001,
trying to cut insurgent supply lines and win over local elders.
Saturday’s attack in the east started when insurgents drove an
explosives-laden truck filled with gravel toward the gates of the American
base, Zawak said. After the truck driver did not heed warnings to stop, the
troops opened fire on the truck, which exploded, he said.
For two hours, insurgents then fired at the base from several locations before
US-called airstrikes ended the fight, he said.
Zabiullah Mujaheed, a Taliban spokesman, claimed responsibility for the
attack. After the blast, some 100 Taliban fighters fired at the coalition
troops for several hours, briefly taking over two of their checkpoints,
Zawak said 32 insurgents were killed in the airstrikes, and the authorities
have already recovered 16 bodies. Mujaheed said five insurgents were killed
and three were wounded.
Because of the base is in a remote area, it was impossible to independently
verify Zawak’s and Mujaheed’s claims.
Saturday’s attack happened in the same province where an American soldier and
three Afghans were believed captured by insurgents Tuesday.
US troops continued looking for the soldier, Navy Chief Petty Officer Brian
Naranjo said yesterday. The military has not publicly identified him.
Taliban faction led by Sirajuddin Haqqani operate in the area where the attack
took place. The US has accused Haqqani of masterminding beheadings and
suicide bombings, including the July 2008 attack on the Indian Embassy in
Kabul that killed 60 people.
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