Two US troops killed as Taliban attack base
KABUL, Afghanistan - Taliban militants fired rockets and mortars at a US base in eastern Afghanistan yesterday, killing two American troops in a fierce battle as thousands of Marines in the south continued with their massive anti-Taliban push.
The multi-pronged attack in eastern Paktika Province - where an American soldier was captured recently - included a truck bombing near the camp’s gates. The battle ended only after US forces called in air strikes on militants.
The battle near the Pakistan border is hundreds of miles from the massive Marine assault in southern Helmand Province. It underscores the militants’ ability to inflict casualties on the over-stretched US forces as they widen their battle against the Taliban.
Seven American and two Afghan troops were wounded, a US military spokesman said.
More than 30 insurgents were killed in the battle yesterday in the Zerok district of Paktika, said Hamidullah Zawak, the provincial governor’s spokesman.
But the NATO-led force under which these American troops fight said in a statement that US troops killed at least 10 militants. The discrepancy in the militant 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 US base, Zawak said. When the driver did not heed warnings to stop, troops opened fire on the truck, which exploded, 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, Mujaheed said.