Fighting Kills 12 Before Karzai Ceremony

Militants attacked an Afghan border post and an American patrol near the Pakistani frontier, sparking battles in which at least eight rebels and four Afghan soldiers were killed, officials said Tuesday.

The assaults came hours before U.S.-backed leader Hamid Karzai's (search) inauguration as Afghanistan's first democratically elected president in the capital. One rocket was fired near Kabul on Monday evening, but landed far from the former royal palace where Karzai was sworn in.

In the bloodiest overnight incident, insurgents armed with assault rifles and rockets attacked the base of Afghan government troops near Tana, a town in southeastern Khost province (search), the commander said.

An hour-long firefight destroyed part of the base and left four Afghan soldiers and at least six militants dead, Gen. Khial Baz said.

"The Americans didn't come to help us," Baz said. "They only came this morning to ask questions."

U.S. military spokesman Maj. Mark McCann reported what appeared to be same incident, but said American troops operating in the area said three Afghan soldiers were killed and two more wounded.

The Afghan general, speaking from his headquarters in Khost city, said some 250 gunmen had attacked his men near the border, but McCann suggested the number of attackers was "much smaller."

The American patrol was attacked by a group of about 10 insurgents with rockets and guns elsewhere in Khost province.

"We returned fire, and two anti-coalition militants were killed in that incident," McCann said. He said no American soldiers were hurt, but provided no further details.

The U.S. base near Khost city also came under fire from three rockets, all of which landed outside the perimeter, causing neither damage nor injury, he said.

The rocket fired near Kabul came down on a cattle farm near Bagrami, a district southeast of the city, early Monday evening, said Lt. Cdr. Ken MacKillop, a spokesman for the NATO-led security force based in the capital.

Many of the 150 foreign dignitaries who attended Tuesday ceremony were already in the city at the time, though U.S. Vice President Dick Cheney and Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld had yet to arrive.