Asia

Afghanistan clash 'kills dozens of Taliban' in Paktika

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More than 60 Taliban fighters have been killed in an attack on a Nato outpost in Afghanistan's eastern province of Paktika, local officials say.

Nato confirmed aircraft and ground forces had repelled Tuesday's attack on the Bermal outpost but it could not give any specific casualty details.

The local officials said there were no coalition or civilian casualties.

Separately an Afghan soldier seriously injured three Australian troops after firing on them in Uruzgan province.

Nato is gradually handing security over to Afghans ahead of a full combat pullout by the end of 2014.

'Blind eye'

Mokhlis Afghan, a spokesman for the governor of Paktika, told the BBC: "Between 60 and 70 insurgents attacked a joint Nato-Afghan National Security Forces (ANSF) base in Bermal district's Margha area on the border with the Durand line.

"The insurgents were armed with heavy and light weapons. In retaliation, ANSF launched their own attack. After a fierce gun battle and air support from Nato, all of the insurgents were killed.

"There were no civilian, Nato or ANSF casualties.''

Spokesman for the Nato-led Isaf force, Sgt Christopher DeWitt, confirmed the attack and that air support had been used.

Image caption Nato troops are scheduled for a full combat pullout in 2014

Two senior Afghan intelligence officials told the BBC the attack was "very close to Pakistan", adding: "Sixty insurgents carrying so many weapons could have not crossed from Pakistan without the help of Pakistani security forces - it is either that or they turned a blind eye."

Pakistan says it does all it can to halt insurgent activity.

A local police official in Bermal also told the BBC: ''We know for sure that there are foreign fighters among those killed because we listened to their radio chatter, there were Arabic, Chechen, Uzbek and Urdu speakers."

He said the attack was "carried out by the Haqqani network to take revenge for several recent operations, which resulted in the killing and capture of their commanders and fighters."

US and Afghan officials blame the Haqqani network, which is affiliated to the Taliban, for a series of attacks in Kabul and other areas of Afghanistan.

Separately, the district governor of Paktika's Sarwaza district, Mohammad Akbar, died on Wednesday from injuries suffered the day before in a roadside attack.

Troops disarmed

In the Uruzgan incident on Tuesday afternoon, Australian officials said an Afghan soldier fired on colleagues with an automatic weapon and a grenade launcher at a patrol base in the Charmestan region, north-east of Tarin Kot.

Three Australian soldiers on a mentoring mission were seriously wounded and two Afghan troops lightly injured.

The attacker fled in an army vehicle and is still to be caught. All members of the Afghan base were disarmed and confined to barracks.

There has been a string of "rogue soldier" attacks on Western troops in Afghanistan.

Two weeks ago an Afghan soldier shot and killed three Australian troops and an Afghan interpreter in Kandahar, southern Afghanistan.

Australia has lost 32 soldiers during operations in Afghanistan.

The Nato-backed International Security Assistance Force (Isaf) is gradually handing over responsibility for security to Afghans but about 140,000 foreign troops remain in the country.

The handover is expected to be completed by the end of 2014.

The United Nations says the first six months of 2011 were the deadliest for civilians across Afghanistan since the war began in 2001.