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8 militants killed in gunbattle at Afghan airport

- Associated Press - Wednesday, June 30, 2010

KABUL, Afghanistan (AP) — Militants set off a car bomb and stormed the entrance to an airport in eastern Afghanistan on Wednesday in a failed attempt to enter the air field used by Afghan and international forces, authorities said. Eight insurgents died in the ensuing gunbattle.

The Taliban claimed responsibility for the assault, part of an upswing in violence in the nearly 9-year-old war.

Using light weapons and rocket-propelled grenades, the militants battled international forces for 30 minutes on the outskirts of Jalalabad city, according to the media office at the airport. White smoke rose from the scene.

An Afghan soldier and one international service member were wounded in the fighting, NATO said.

"They were not able to breach the perimeter. They were fought off by a combination of Afghan and coalition security forces," German army Brig. Gen. Josef Blotz, a spokesman for NATO, told reporters.

The air field, shared by Afghans and the international force, is on a main road that leads to the Pakistani border.

In a text message to the Associated Press in Kabul, Taliban spokesman Zabiullah Mujahid said six suicide attackers killed 32 foreign and Afghan security forces at the airport, about 80 miles east of the Afghan capital. The insurgents often claim higher numbers of deaths in their attacks than the official toll.

In a separate incident in eastern Afghanistan, NATO said a U.S. service member died of wounds sustained in a gunbattle with insurgents. NATO did not provide other details. The death brought to 59 the number of American troops who have died in June.

Elsewhere in the east, U.S. and Afghan forces battled hundreds of militants from an al Qaeda-linked group for a third day Tuesday in Kunar province, the U.S. military said. Two American soldiers were killed Sunday in the first day of the operation.

The attack in Kunar was directed against insurgents believed responsible for a roadside bombing that killed five American service members in the area on June 7, a U.S. statement said.

The militants were believed to be members of the Haqqani group, a faction of the Taliban based in Pakistan that has close ties to al Qaeda. About 600 U.S. and Afghan troops are taking part in the operation, the U.S. statement said.

In western Afghanistan, two patients waiting for a doctor were wounded Wednesday when a suicide bomber detonated his vest of explosives behind a clinic in the Dularam district of Farah province, said Gen. Abdul Jabar Pardeli, chief of police in neighboring Nimroz province. He said the intended target was not known.

On Monday, four Afghan National Police officers were killed by a roadside bomb in the same district, the Ministry of Interior said.

On Tuesday in Kabul, an Afghan man working for the United Nations was shot and killed in his vehicle near a busy traffic circle.

The man was driving a white pickup truck with the blue U.N. logo painted on the side. Another Afghan member of the U.N. staff who was in the vehicle was not wounded, the U.N. said.

The morning shooting occurred amid heavy traffic near Massoud circle, an intersection near the U.S. Embassy and an American military base.

Brig. Gen. Blotz said Wednesday that it remains unclear whether the U.N. vehicle was the intended target of the shooting.

Also Tuesday, a roadside bomb wounded seven civilians in the Arghistan district of Kandahar and another bomb killed two civilians and wounded two others in Khakrez district, the Afghan Ministry of Interior said.

Afghan and international forces are ramping up security in and around Kandahar, the birthplace of the Taliban.

Brig. Gen. Blotz said 43 insurgents were killed or captured in a three-day operation aimed at disrupting insurgents in the Panjwai district of Kandahar province, where they have plotted attacks on Kandahar city. In the past two months, joint forces have reportedly captured more than 115 suspected insurgents, including more than 15 mid- and senior-level militant leaders, and destroyed four roadside mine factories.

Associated Press Writer Amir Shah contributed to this report.

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