- Associated Press - Sunday, July 17, 2011

KABUL, Afghanistan (AP) — Afghan and NATO troops on Sunday killed at least 13 Taliban fighters in eastern Afghanistan after an overnight gunbattle ended with an airstrike on the building where the insurgents were holed up, Afghan and coalition officials said.

Capt. Justin Brockhoff, a spokesman for the coalition, said the fighting started during an overnight operation targeting a Taliban leader in the Kuz Kunar district of Nangarhar province. The joint force made up of Afghan and coalition troops came under fire, and insurgents refused requests to come out of the building, he said.

The fighting ended Sunday with a NATO airstrike, he said, adding that there were no casualties among civilians or security forces. The insurgents were armed with machine guns, assault rifles and rocket-propelled grenades.

“As Afghan members of the security force attempted to clear the building, they were met with continuing insurgent fire,” Capt. Brockhoff said. The coalition and Afghan forces eventually called in an airstrike, which “killed several more insurgents and destroyed the building,” he said.

Ahmad Zia Abdulzai, a spokesman for the Nangarhar provincial governor, said the bodies of 13 insurgents had been found so far. He said the building occupied by the Taliban was school that was empty because the students are on summer break.

The fighting came as NATO handed over control for security in central Bamiyan province to Afghan security forces — the first of seven areas to be transferred to Afghan control. The province, along with Panjshir in the east, has seen little to no fighting since the overthrow of the Taliban nearly 10 years ago. Bamiyan and Panjshir are the only two provinces that will transition in their entirety and barely had any coalition troops present there.

Later this month, transition will take place in the provincial capitals of Lashkar Gah in southern Afghanistan, Herat in the west, Mazer-e-Sharif in the north and Mehterlam in the east. Afghan forces also will take control for all of Kabul province except for the restive Surobi district.

Also Sunday, NATO said one of its service members was killed by a roadside bomb in eastern Afghanistan. It did not release a nationality or any further details.

Britain’s Ministry of Defense also confirmed that a British soldier had been shot dead in what Afghan officials said was an attack by a gunman in Afghan army uniform on Saturday. The ministry said the soldier from the 9th/12th Royal Lancers was on a joint NATO-Afghan army patrol in Helmand province when he came under small-arms fire.

“A report that the fatal gunshot was fired by an Afghan National Army soldier is now the subject of a joint International Security Assistance Force and Afghan National Security Force investigation,” said Lt. Col. Tim Purbrick, a spokesman for British forces in Afghanistan.

The soldier’s name was not released, but his family has been informed, the ministry said.

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