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Afghan Officials: Up to 70 Taliban Killed in Base Attack


Afghan officials said Wednesday Afghan and NATO troops killed at least 70 Taliban militants who launched an attack on a base near the Pakistani border.

A spokesman for the governor of eastern Paktika province, Mukhlis Afghan, said the combined force repelled the assault late Tuesday in the Barmal district.

NATO said a large group of insurgents attacked the base with small arms and rocket-propelled grenades. Troops called in coalition air support to help fight the militants. There were no reports of coalition casualties.

Elsewhere, NATO said two of its service members died in southern Afghanistan. One soldier was killed in an insurgent attack, while the other one died in a bomb blast. The coalition did not provide any other details.

Earlier on Tuesday, Australia's Defense Ministry said an Afghan soldier seriously wounded three Australian and two Afghan soldiers when he opened fire at the base in central Uruzgan province.

The attack came less than two weeks after another Afghan soldier shot dead three Australian soldiers and wounded seven others during a parade, and just days after Australian Prime Minister Julia Gillard visited the war-torn country.

Ms. Gillard told reporters in Melbourne Wednesday that while the incidents are "distressing" and "dreadful," the country's mission in Afghanistan must continue. She noted that training is pivotal to that mission and that troops aim to deny terrorists a country where they can train to "wreak violence around the world."

Australia has 1,550 troops in Afghanistan, the largest number of any non-NATO member. At least 32 Australian troops have been killed in Afghanistan since the country joined the NATO-led coalition.

Some information for this report was provided by AP, AFP and Reuters.

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