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U.S., Afghan Forces Kill 12 Rebels

Fighting between insurgents and U.S.-led coalition and Afghan forces in the country's troubled east left 12 rebels dead and one U.S. soldier slightly wounded, the U.S. military said Sunday.

The clash occurred Saturday in Paktika province, which borders Pakistan (search), said U.S. military spokesman Lt. Col. Jerry O'Hara.

"It was clearly the insurgents who fired upon us first," O'Hara said.

O'Hara said the 12 were killed by a combination of direct fire from troops on the ground and coalition attack aircraft, and that the surviving rebels fled across the border into Pakistan after the fighting.

Pakistan's military reported that some shells from the fighting landed in Pakistan's North Waziristan tribal region, but no one was hurt there.

Spokesman Maj. Gen. Shaukat Sultan said the U.S. commander on the Afghan side of the border had informed his local Pakistani counterpart that they were engaged in a "skirmish with miscreants" — a byword for militants — very close to the Pakistani border.

"Certain shells did land in Pakistani area but there was no collateral damage," Sultan said.

However, a Pakistani intelligence official in Miran Shah, the main town in North Waziristan, said on condition of anonymity that five men were killed near the Pakistani village of Alwara Mandi by U.S. jet and rocket fire.

Alwara Mandi residents have picked up the bodies and have asked local people to help identify them, he said.

After a winter lull, loyalists of Afghanistan's ousted Taliban regime and other militants opposed to the U.S.-backed government of President Hamid Karzai have ramped up their insurgency with a series of bombings and other attacks.

A U.S. soldier was killed and three others wounded in an explosion as they patrolled in an armored vehicle Saturday in southern Zabul province. A purported Taliban spokesman claimed responsibility for that attack.

The death brought to 144 the number of U.S. troops killed in and around Afghanistan since Operation Enduring Freedom began in 2001.