U.S.-led forces rained fire for two days on militants near Afghanistan's border with Pakistan, officials said Monday, killing about 55 insurgents and underscoring how fighting with Taliban insurgents is escalating.
The battle in eastern Paktika province was the second in the past week to reportedly inflict major casualties on militants, whom Afghan officials insist are swarming in from strongholds in Pakistan.
Pakistan's government on Monday reiterated an offer to fence the craggy, 1,500-mile frontier – a project begun but abandoned last year amid criticism that it would only enrage the tribes who straddle the frontier and among whom the Taliban find many recruits.
The battle in Paktika began Friday morning, when militants armed with rockets and guns ambushed troops from the U.S.-led coalition patrolling a road in Ziruk district, the coalition said. The troops returned fire and called in airstrikes.
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Fighting continued until Sunday morning, and the majority of the deaths were from the airstrikes, coalition spokesman Capt. Christian Patterson said. About 55 militants died, 25 others were wounded and three were detained, he said.
Patterson said no coalition troops died, but he declined to say if any were wounded.
It was not possible to get independent confirmation of the death toll, but Nabi Mullakhail, the provincial police chief, said militants had suffered “huge” casualties in the remote, mountainous district. Afghan forces were not involved, he said.