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Fighting Erupts in Southern Afghanistan - 2003-07-21

The U.S.-led anti-terrorism coalition says its forces have killed up to two dozen suspected Taleban militants in a clash in southern Afghanistan. A U.S. military spokesman in Afghanistan says fighting erupted after suspected Taleban fighters ambushed a coalition convoy near the southern border town of Spin Boldak Saturday.

He says the U.S. soldiers returned fire, killing five of the attackers. U.S. Apache gunship helicopters chased the remaining group into the surrounding hills, and killed about 19 more "enemy" fighters.

The spokesman says no coalition forces were injured.

In a separate incident Saturday, Afghan officials say dozens of heavily armed Taleban fighters attacked a border post in the same region.

Reports say the attackers killed several government troops, before allegedly escaping across the border into Pakistan. Local officials say that fighting lasted for about five hours, and U.S. forces were sent from the nearby town of Kandahar to assist Afghan troops.

Attacks against local and foreign forces in Afghanistan have increased in recent months.

Last week, eight government troops were killed in southeastern Khost Province. On Sunday, four Italian forces and their Afghan translator were wounded in a missile attack on their convoy in the same region.

Members of Afghanistan's ousted Taleban government and the al-Qaida terrorist network are blamed for organizing the attacks that have killed dozens of people. The U.S.-led anti-terrorism coalition is assisting Afghan forces in hunting down these militants.

Afghan officials say some of the Taleban fugitives are using bases across the border in Pakistan. Pakistani officials reject the allegations, saying they have deployed thousands of soldiers to seal the border.