KANDAHAR, Afghanistan – Fighting between about 90 suspected Taliban (search ) rebels and hundreds of Afghan soldiers and U.S.-led coalition troops left seven insurgents dead and 10 wounded, while a rebel attack on a medical clinic killed a doctor and six others, officials said Wednesday.
The clash broke out on the border between Kandahar and Uruzgan, two southern provinces, on Tuesday after the rebels attacked a joint Afghan-coalition patrol, army commander Gen. Muslim Amid said.
Four Afghan soldiers were wounded in the fighting, which ended with the insurgents fleeing into nearby mountains, carrying their injured, he said. Two rebels were captured.
Troops pursued the rebels into the mountains and were still hunting them on Wednesday, Amid added.
U.S. military spokesman Lt. Col. Jerry O'Hara confirmed that coalition troops were involved in the fighting, but declined to comment on it, saying an assessment was still going on. He said there were no coalition casualties.
The attack on the independently run clinic occurred in Khost province (search ), which is next to the Afghanistan-Pakistan border, said Almar Gul Mungle, commander of a frontier security force. Suspected Taliban rebels broke into the building and shot the seven late Tuesday night, he said.
Mungle said the motive for the killing was not clear, though he suggested the insurgents may have murdered them because they thought they were working for the government.
Even though U.S. military commanders are upbeat about progress in making Afghanistan secure, there has been a sharp rise in violence since spring. President Hamid Karzai's (search) administration has warned that Taliban-led rebels and Al Qaeda (search) militants are trying to subvert crucial legislative elections in September.
Meanwhile, Pakistan's Geo television broadcast an interview with a man it identified as Taliban military commander Mullah Akhtar Usmani, who said the group's fugitive chief Mullah Mohammed Omar (search) and Usama bin Laden (search) are alive and well.
With an AK-47 rifle next to him and a black turban on his head, which covered most of his face, the man said Omar was leading the rebellion in Afghanistan from a hideout. He said discipline among the rebels was strong and that they had regular meetings.
Asked to comment on whether bin Laden was hiding in Afghanistan, the man said "He is absolutely fine ... (but) I will not say where he is."
Geo said the interview was recorded last week, but declined to say where.