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NATO said coalition forces beat back an attack on a combat outpost in Paktika province’s Barmal district along the mountainous border with Pakistan, killing at least 20 insurgents. Troops first returned fire with mortars and small arms before calling in an air assault, the alliance said in a statement, adding that no NATO or Afghan government forces were killed.

In Ghazni province’s Andar district, five other insurgents were killed in an airstrike as they were placing a roadside bomb, NATO said.

In volatile Helmand province to the south, coalition and Afghan forces killed 11 insurgents and captured four, including a regional Taliban shadow district governor, Mulla Sayed Gul, responsible for ordering attacks and dispensing funds, the provincial government said.

Other insurgents were killed and captured in Paktika, one of several eastern provinces where the Taliban and their allies maintain cross-border routes to smuggle in weapons and militants, many of them linked to al Qaeda and recruited from their homelands in the Persian Gulf region and North Africa.

Estimates of the number of foreign fighters in Afghanistan vary, with the vast majority of insurgents still drawn from Afghanistan’s multitude of tribes, especially in the Pashtun-dominated south.