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25 militants die in attack on Afghan Army-NATO outpost

Helicopter crash kills 9 coalition troops in south

By Amir Shah
Associated Press / September 23, 2010

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KABUL, Afghanistan — Insurgents attacked a NATO and Afghan Army outpost in eastern Afghanistan near the Pakistan border, and at least 25 of the militants were killed in the resulting skirmish, officials said yesterday.

Troops at the combat outpost in the Spera district of Khost Province returned fire with mortars late Tuesday, killing 25 to 30 insurgents, NATO said in a statement. Initial reports found there were no civilian casualties.

General Raz Mohmmad Horya Khil, a senior commander of the Afghan National Army in the province, said 29 insurgents were killed. There were no casualties among NATO or Afghan troops, he said.

Horya Khil said the attack, coming from the Pakistan side of the border, was directed at the Mir Safar joint-NATO and Afghan Army camp and lasted for more than two hours. Helicopters were called in for support.

Bodies were being recovered.

Yesterday, a NATO service member was killed by a homemade bomb in southern Afghanistan.

NATO provided no further details, but the Danish military announced that the blast killed a Danish soldier and seriously injured another.

The two members of the Royal Life Guards were on foot patrol in Helmand Province when the bomb went off, it said. Denmark has lost more than 30 soldiers in Afghanistan since 2002.

The death followed the crash of a NATO helicopter in southern Afghanistan on Tuesday that killed nine NATO troops in the worst coalition copter crash in Afghanistan in four years.

This year has already become the deadliest of the Afghan war for international troops, surpassing last year’s total of 504 deaths.

The coalition would not disclose the helicopter’s mission.

NATO said there were no reports of enemy fire at the time in the Daychopan district of Zabul Province, where the crash took place.

However, Qari Yousef Ahmadi, Taliban spokesman, said by phone that insurgents shot down the helicopter. The Taliban often exaggerate and sometimes take credit for accidents.

At least six Americans were among the dead, according to military officials and family members.

Rick Rzepka, a spokesman for Fort Campbell, said five of the soldiers were assigned to the 101st Combat Aviation Brigade. Their identities have not been released.

Meanwhile, a US official in Washington confirmed reports that the CIA is running an all-Afghan paramilitary group that has been hunting Al Qaeda, Taliban, and other militant targets for the agency.

A security professional in Kabul familiar with the operation said the 3,000-strong force was set up in 2002 to capture targets for CIA interrogation. A former US intelligence official said members of the covert Afghan force conduct surveillance and long-range reconnaissance, and some have trained in the United States.

The sources spoke yesterday on the condition of anonymity.

The force, called the Counterterrorist Pursuit Team, was described in a new book by Bob Woodward, “Obama’s Wars.’’

In other developments, international forces arrested two Afghan journalists during raids of their homes in the early hours of Monday and yesterday on suspicion of collaborating with the Taliban, The New York Times reported.

On Saturday, the Afghan intelligence agency arrested a radio reporter who leads the Kapisa Province journalists’ association, according to a spokesman for the governor, who would not say what the charges were.

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