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Archive for Sunday, December 28, 2003

American soldiers drawn into fatal battle in Afghanistan

December 28, 2003

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— Suspected al-Qaida fighters ambushed Afghan security forces near the Pakistani border Saturday, and U.S. forces were drawn into the deadly gunbattle that ensued, a local commander said.

A senior Afghan intelligence official and six attackers were killed at the scene in eastern Khost province, said Khial Baz, a military commander in Khost.

The Afghan officials were traveling in a pickup truck when they came under fire. The province's deputy intelligence chief was killed instantly and his boss, Qudratullah Madezai, was seriously hurt, Baz said by satellite telephone.

The rest of the passengers opened fire along with U.S. reinforcements killing six attackers.

The assailants appear to have been Arabs fighting for al-Qaida, Baz said.

The top U.S. commander in Afghanistan, Lt. Gen. David W. Barno, said this month that hundreds of al-Qaida fighters still appeared to be active in Khost and neighboring provinces on the long Afghanistan-Pakistan border. The area has seen a wave of attacks this year by insurgents.

The attacks came as debate about Afghanistan's new constitution soured Saturday.

Government allies accused religious hard-liners of trying to pepper the charter with strict Islamic laws and sides disagreed about how much power should be given to the presidency.

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