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Last Updated: Wednesday, 26 May, 2004, 09:58 GMT 10:58 UK
Afghan strike 'kills 20 Taleban'
About 20 Taleban militants have been killed in an attack by the US-led coalition near Afghanistan's border with Pakistan, Afghan officials say.

Local commander Khan Mohammed said US aircraft bombed Taleban positions in support of 150 Afghans who had attacked camps near Spin Boldak on Tuesday.

The US said one of its patrols fighting militants had called in the aircraft.

If confirmed, the Taleban losses would be their worst since the US stepped up military operations earlier this year.

'Commanders killed'

US military spokesman Lt Col Tucker Mansager said the patrol had called in air support as "a show of force".

"When that did not work, they used precision ordnance. They were effective as far as we know."

No US troops were hurt, he said, and he could not confirm Taleban casualties nor the involvement of Afghan troops.

However, Mr Mohammed said: "US forces told us that they had seen the bodies of about 20 dead Taleban."

Taleban fighters
Taleban are reportedly being pursued to the Pakistan border

He said the Afghan forces had attacked an area called Ghbragyan on Tuesday afternoon.

A three-hour gunfight followed in which three of his soldiers were wounded.

"After that, US warplanes came and started bombing the Taleban area," Mr Mohammed told the Associated Press news agency.

Kandahar's intelligence chief, Abdullah Laghmanai, told the AFP news agency two of the Taleban killed were the commanders Qari Faizullah and Qari Ali Mohammed.

"The operation is still ongoing with government troops chasing down Taleban to the Pakistani border," Mr Laghmanai said.

"According to our intelligence we estimated that 200 Taleban were in the area and now they have scattered."

The US has 20,000 troops in the country and has vowed to crush militants opposed to the Afghan government.

Taleban forces have been resurgent in recent months and have vowed to topple the government of President Hamid Karzai.

Pakistan has recently stepped up its campaign to root out foreign militants on its side of the border.

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