x Abu Dhabi, UAESunday 21 January 2018

80 Taliban militants killed in failed attack

Assault took place against Nato outpost and insurgents defeated with air support that targeted positions using guided munitions.

KHOST, AFGHANISTAN // An Afghan official said yesterday that 80 Taliban insurgents were killed during a failed attack on a Nato combat outpost near the border with Pakistan.

"Fresh information that we received from intelligence sources shows that 80 Taliban have been killed. The bodies of the militants were left on the battlefield," said Mukhlis Afghan, spokesman for the governor of eastern Paktika province.

Nato said earlier that 30 Taliban had been killed as international troops repelled an attack on the outpost in Barmal district, which sits on the border of Pakistan's lawless North Waziristan tribal area.

A statement from Nato's International Security Assistance Force (Isaf) said the insurgents launched the attack at 1.30am local time yesterday "from all directions" using rocket-propelled grenades, mortars and small arms fire.

Five Isaf soldiers were injured, it said, adding that they kept fighting.

"The coalition forces called for air weapons team and close-air support during the engagement. A coalition aircraft engaged an insurgent firing position with three precision-guided munitions," it said.

"The air weapons team also engaged a large number of insurgents near the outpost," it said, adding: "Initial operational reporting indicates more than 30 insurgents were killed in the failed attack on the outpost."

The proximity of the combat post to the border hints at the possibility the insurgents had crossed from Pakistan, where the Taliban's leadership council is believed to be based.

The insurgency in Afghanistan began after the Taliban's regime was overthrown in the US-led invasion in late 2001.

Remote border regions have proved particularly volatile in recent years.

In October last year, eight US soldiers were killed and 22 wounded after their tiny combat outposts in Nuristan province, also bordering Pakistan, were attacked by an estimated 300 insurgents.

The militants swept down a hillside from a mosque and a village and fought for hours before being repelled by airstrikes, in one of the most dramatic incidents of the war.

US forces later withdrew from the region, and their bases were quickly taken over by the Taliban.

The United States and Nato have more than 150,000 troops in Afghanistan fighting the war, which is concentrated in the south and east of the country, with the Taliban believed to be reinforcing with fighters from Pakistan.

The fight has intensified as an extra 30,000 troops from the United State and a further 10,000 from Nato have deployed, mainly to southern Helmand and Kandahar provinces, in a key push against the Taliban in their heartland.

Nato said yesterday that two of its soldiers died in separate attacks in the south - one was killed in an insurgent attack on Friday, the other in a similar incident yesterday.

The nationalities of the soldiers were not revealed, according to policy.

An AFP tally based on that kept by icasualties.org puts the total number of foreign soldiers to die in the war this year at 609, compared to 521 for 2009.