(AP) KABUL, Afghanistan – Afghan and U.S. troops backed by warplanes killed as many as 50 militants in a day-long battle near the Pakistani border, the U.S. military said Tuesday, one of the bloodiest clashes since American forces entered Afghanistan.
One Afghan soldier was also killed and three others wounded in the fighting which raged all day Monday in Khost province, a former al-Qaida stronghold south of the capital, Kabul, a military statement said.
“Allied forces staved off rockets, mortars, rocket propelled grenades and machine gun fire throughout the day and into the night,” the statement said. “The exact number of enemy casualties is unknown, but pilots flying overhead estimated that approximately 40-50 insurgents were killed.”
The battle began at about 2 a.m. on Monday when militants assailed a border post in the south of the province.
Afghan officials said on Monday that they had found the bodies of two attackers, while the U.S. military said only that it had inflicted “heavy” losses on the rebels.
In Tuesday’s statement, the U.S. military said the attackers numbered about 50, but retreated “in panic” when warplanes included a B-1 bomber, an A-10 ground attack aircraft and helicopters arrived on the scene.
The Afghan soldier died in a fresh skirmish later that morning, the U.S. military said, though Afghan Gen. Khial Baz said that two of his men had died.
The U.S. military said the fighting continued into Monday night, but gave no further details.