U.S. Helicopters, Afghans Battle Taliban

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American helicopter gunships and Afghan troops repelled a Taliban attack near the eastern border with Pakistan, killing three suspected Taliban, an Afghan security official said Saturday.

The alleged Taliban (search) attack occurred Friday night in lawless Paktika province's Bermal district, just two miles from the Pakistan border. The area adjoins Pakistan's South Wazirstan province, where Pakistani forces are carrying out a massive five-day-old push against Al Qaeda (search) and Taliban suspects.

It was unclear whether there was any link to the South Wazirstan (search) battle or if the fighters had fled from the offensive across the border.

Zakim Khan, Paktika province intelligence chief and an Afghan militia commander, claimed that Taliban forces infiltrating from Pakistan launched Friday's night fighting, attacking Afghan checkpoints with rockets.

Afghan troops responded with AK-47 fire, Khan said. American forces with Afghans brought in helicopter gunships, firing upon the attacker position, he said.

Four hours of fighting left three Taliban dead and eight injured, with no casualties among the Afghan soldiers or Americans, Khan said.

Lt. Col. Bryan Hilferty, a U.S. military spokesman in Kabul, the capital, said he had no immediate information on the alleged fight.

Bermal district is 150 miles south of Kabul, in a province in which the Afghan government has had little security presence.

U.S. special operations forces and others are there in a stepped-up campaign to capture Taliban and Al Qaeda fugitives hiding in the mountains, and to close escape routes from hiding places across the border in Pakistan.

On March 5, U.S. special operations snipers killed nine alleged Taliban in the area after 30 to 40 of the fighters allegedly tried to flank an American-Afghan position, the U.S. military said.

In Pakistan on Saturday, a senior Pakistani army officer told The Associated Press that an American helicopter had fired rockets at a car in the Alawarai Mandi district of North Waziristan, just one mile from the Afghan border. The area is about 30 miles northeast of Friday's attack.

Three people inside were injured, the officer said, speaking on condition of anonymity.

He said it was not clear if the Americans were after a specific target or knew they had crossed into Pakistani territory.

Hilferty, the main spokesman for U.S. forces in Afghanistan, disputed the claim.

"There are no American or combined forces over there," he said.