2 U.S. Troops Killed by Taliban in Battle in East Afghanistan

Associated Press
Sunday, July 5, 2009

KABUL, July 4 -- Taliban fighters fired rockets and mortar rounds at a U.S. base in eastern Afghanistan on Saturday, killing two American troops in a fierce battle as thousands of Marines in the south continued a major anti-Taliban push.

The multi-pronged Taliban attack in eastern Paktika province -- where a U.S. soldier was captured in the past week -- included a truck bombing near the base gates. The battle ended only after American forces called in airstrikes.

The area near the Pakistani border where the fighting occurred is hundreds of miles from the Marine assault unfolding in southern Helmand province. The incident underscores the insurgents' ability to inflict casualties on U.S. forces as they widen their battle against the resurgent Taliban.

More than 30 insurgents were killed in the Saturday battle in the Zerok district of Paktika province, a provincial spokesman said. Seven American and two Afghan troops were wounded, according to a U.S. military spokesman.

Meanwhile, the NATO-led force under which the U.S. troops fight said 10 insurgents were killed and one detained. The discrepancy in the fighters' death tolls could not immediately be reconciled.

During the battle, an insurgent drove a truck filled with explosives and gravel toward the gates of the U.S. base, the provincial spokesman said. When the driver did not heed warnings to stop, troops opened fire on the truck, which exploded, he said.

The blast occurred as rocket and mortar fire peppered the base, killing two U.S. troops and wounding the seven other American soldiers, the U.S. military said.

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