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Page last updated at 15:32 GMT, Sunday, 27 July 2008 16:32 UK

Nato 'prevents Taleban advance'

By Alastair Leithead
BBC News, Kabul

Militants in Pakistani tribal area bordering Afghanistan (file photo)
The Taleban have been fighting to regain control of district headquarters

Taleban fighters have been prevented from taking over a small Afghan town centre close to Pakistan's border, Nato and Afghan government officials say.

Nato forces said they were called in to help Afghan national police in Spera in the south-eastern province of Khost.

This was after they were attacked by gunfire and rocket-propelled grenades.

Khost's governor said 50 to 70 fighters had been killed; Nato said the number was in double figures. There is no independent verification.

Border tension

Both Nato's International Security Assistance Force (Isaf) and the Afghan government said about 100 insurgents had amassed in the district close to the border with Pakistan in the early hours of the morning and appeared to be trying to take over the town centre.

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An Isaf statement said helicopter gunships were brought in and the militants surrounded.

It described how some fighters took cover in a nearby building which was then struck by missiles. The fighting from the air and on the ground went on for some hours.

The governor added that many fighters had fled into local villages and air strikes were then stopped to prevent civilian casualties.

There has been a dramatic increase in the number of clashes and bombings in eastern Afghanistan this year.

It is thought many of the fighters openly cross over the border from Pakistan.

There has been increasing tension between the two countries over the issue, and international military commanders express frustration that they are trying to fight an insurgency that is constantly fuelled by fighters who cannot be targeted on the other side of the border.


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