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Last Updated: Sunday, 31 August, 2003, 16:16 GMT 17:16 UK
US soldiers die in Afghan clash
US Apache helicopter (file photo)
US troops have been hunting down Taleban fighters
Two American soldiers have been killed in south-east Afghanistan in a clash with guerrilla fighters, the US military says.

The one-and-a-half hour battle took place near the Pakistan border close to Shkin, in Paktika province, a statement said.

Another US soldier was wounded in the clash in which four opposition fighters reportedly died.

The US military has not said who was behind the attack, but similar clashes have been attributed to Taleban fighters, their al-Qaeda associates or supporters of the renegade former prime minister Gulbuddin Hekmatyar.

South-east Afghanistan has been hit by a recent rise in violence blamed on apparently resurgent Taleban fighters.

Hunt for Taleban

In the neighbouring province of Zabul, Taleban fighters were reported to be putting up resistance as Afghan and US forces - backed by fighters and attack helicopters - continued to track them down.

The hunt, which is in its seventh day, has so far reportedly led to the death of 90 Taleban fighters.

"Fighting has escalated today," Khalil Hotak, the local intelligence chief told Reuters from Zabul.

"The bombardment has intensified, so has the shelling, but the Taleban are out there and bitterly resisting."

Supporters of the Taleban regime which was ousted in 2001 by the US-led coalition are believed to be regrouping in the mountainous border regions of Afghanistan and in Pakistan.

The names of the dead US troops were withheld pending notification of next of kin.

The wounded soldier is in a "stable condition" having been transferred to Bagram Air Base near Kabul, said Central Command.


WATCH AND LISTEN
The BBC's Ian MacWilliam
"The clash was very close to the Pakistani border"



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