A militant assault in an eastern border region of Afghanistan has left eight American and several Afghan soldiers dead. Taliban insurgents claimed responsibility for the violence, saying they have also captured several Afghan policemen in what is being described as the deadliest raid on coalition forces for more than a year.
Afghan authorities say the attack took place in the eastern Nuristan province, which borders Pakistan and is a known heaven for al-Qaida as well as Taliban extremists.
The fighting erupted early on Saturday after scores of heavily armed insurgents streaming from a local mosque and nearby village raided two remote coalition outposts in the Kamdesh district.
Speaking to VOA, U.S Army Colonel Wayne Shanks confirmed eight American soldiers died in the fighting.
"This was a significant battle and fight that lasted most of the day. There was heavy fighting on both the sides," Shanks said. "We used all the firepower that we had at our disposal to include close air support, attack helicopters. The men on the ground, both the Afghan and the U.S coalition, fought and kept the ground and they hold the ground right now."
Coalition area commanders say the Afghan and U.S soldiers "fought bravely together" to repulse what they have described as "a complex attack in a difficult area". The military says it has inflicted heavy enemy casualties.
Shanks says coalition forces are patrolling the area to discourage further militant attacks.
A Taliban spokesman is reported to have claimed responsibility for the militant raid, saying they have also taken a large number of policemen in custody. But the claim could not be verified independent.
This is the second-deadliest attack U.S-led coalition forces have suffered in the region in more than a year. Nine American soldiers were killed when their newly set up outpost in the area was raided by Taliban fighters in July 2008. Insurgents have stepped up attacks in eastern Afghanistan recently in an effort to spread the violence beyond their traditional strongholds in the south.
There are more than 100,000 NATO and U.S forces in the country to quell the Taliban insurgency. But the security situation has worsened in Afghanistan particularly since the beginning of this year. The U.S commander of the international forces, General Stanley McChrystal, is said to have requested additional troops to deal with what he has described a serious situation.