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Last Updated: Friday, 6 June, 2003, 10:10 GMT 11:10 UK
High alert after Afghan battle
The identity of dead Taleban fighters is checked on the Pakistan border
Afghan officials said they dumped the bodies to warn the Taleban
Afghan soldiers remain on high alert in the south of the country following Wednesday's clash with Taleban fighters that left 49 people dead.

The battle in Kandahar province near the Pakistan border was one of the deadliest since the fall of the Taleban regime in 2001.

"We are still on high alert mode and ready for any further Taleban attacks," Kandahar military commander General Khan Mohammad told the AFP news agency.

After the clash, the pro-government Afghan militiamen dumped around 22 Taleban bodies over the border in Pakistan but later retrieved some of them following Pakistani protests.

We have lodged a written protest with Afghan officials and told them that it was an attempt to malign Pakistan
Saqib Aziz, Pakistan district administrator

The fighting broke out when around 100 suspected Taleban fighters armed with rifles, machine guns and rocket launchers attacked the pro-government troops.

Forty Taleban fighters and nine Afghan militiamen were killed.

Bodies retrieved

A row quickly erupted between Afghan and Pakistani officials about the origin of the Taleban fighters.

Afghan officials claimed the Taleban fighters had crossed from Pakistan.

The officials ordered 22 bodies to be dumped at the Killi Faizu refugee camp just inside Pakistani territory

Reports varied about the fate of the bodies although Afghan officials accept that they retrieved some.

Saqib Aziz, administrator of Pakistan's Qila Abdullah district, said the Afghan authorities had retrieved the bodies.

He added: "We have officially lodged a written protest with Afghan officials and told them that it was an attempt to malign Pakistan.

"If [the dead] were Pakistanis then why did the Afghan authorities accept their bodies?"

Authorities in the Afghan town of Spin Boldak said they had taken back only 14 of the bodies.

Deputy district governor of Spin Boldak Sayd Jan told Afghan Islamic Press (AIP): "The bodies of some of the Taleban had been taken by their relatives [in Pakistan]."

He said the bodies were dumped in Pakistan "to show the fate of those who confront our government will be like these [dead Taleban fighters]. Even if a thousand people come from Pakistan, we will confront them".

Mr Sayd Jan said there were no further problems in the area.

Residents of Spin Boldak told AIP the Taleban fighters were encircled and killed after running out of ammunition.

The battle was the culmination of about a week of sporadic clashes around Spin Boldak, with suspected Taleban fighters staging hit-and-run attacks on local forces.


SEE ALSO:
'Taleban' clash sparks border row
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Analysis: Afghan security still key
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20 May 03  |  South Asia
Fighting the Afghan heroin trade
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Hamid Karzai: Shrewd statesman
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