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US, Afghan Officials Say Insurgents Killed in Battle

An Afghan official and the U.S. military say joint security forces in southeastern Afghanistan have attacked a gathering of militants, but there are conflicting reports about how many people were killed.

A spokesman for the governor of Paktika province on Thursday said Afghan police and NATO troops launched a ground operation and air strikes in Wor Mamay district, near the Pakistani border overnight, killing 34 Taliban militants.

A U.S military spokesman confirmed the battle but said 29 insurgents had been killed. He said six of the insurgents blew themselves up using suicide vests, and one soldier from the NATO-led coalition was wounded.

Separately, NATO said one of its soldiers was killed in a roadside bomb blast in southern Afghanistan Thursday. The alliance did not give the soldier's nationality or the location of the attack.

Also, the British defense ministry said Thursday that two British servicemen were killed in separate explosions in southern Afghanistan.

One soldier was killed by a blast near Garmsir in Helmand province Thursday. A British Royal Marine wounded in Helmand province last week died of his injuries.

In other violence, police in Herat province say gunmen killed four employees of a de-mining agency during an ambush Thursday.

Meanwhile, an Australian military inquiry has found Australian troops probably were not responsible for civilian deaths during a battle with insurgents in southern Afghanistan in January.

The Australian Defense Force on Thursday said its internal inquiry found that the shrapnel taken from a civilian wounded in the January 5 incident in the Baluchi Pass did not match Australian munitions.

But the head of the defense force, Air Chief Marshal Angus Houston, said he also could not completely rule out Australian responsibility for the casualties.

Eight wounded civilians sought treatment for their injuries at a coalition military base after the battle. They said they had been wounded by Australian mortar fire, which they said killed 10 other people. One of the wounded civilians later died in a military hospital.

The Australian military chief said it was more likely that Taliban fire had caused the casualties.