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At least 84 militants dead after firefight

By LES NEUHAUS | STARS AND STRIPES Published: October 29, 2007

ASADABAD, Afghanistan — A six-hour firefight ended with at least seven dozen militants killed by U.S. Air Force jets on Sunday after a U.S.-Afghan reconnaissance patrol was attacked by Taliban fighters in the south of the country, a U.S. military spokesman said.

The pitched battle occurred in Helmand Province’s Musa Qaleh, an area known for its poppy cultivation.

A rash of recent clashes between NATO-led International Security Assistance Forces and radical Taliban loyalists has resulted in scores of insurgent deaths.

Maj. Chris Belcher, a spokesman for U.S. forces based out of Bagram, just north of the capital, Kabul, cited the fast approaching winter season as a possible reason for the increased fighting throughout the country.

“It’s very likely we’re getting close to what the Taliban consider the end of their fighting season,” he said.

The gunfight-turned bombing on Sunday resulted after insurgents ambushed the coalition forces patrol with small-arms fire and rocket-propelled grenades.

U.S. forces then reacted tactically, returned fire and called in the Air Force to attack the Taliban, Belcher said.

A statement released by the U.S. military also stated that “four separate precision munition(s) engagements” were carried out by those aircraft.

Belcher would only say the aircraft were fixed-wing and not helicopters.

Air Force F-15s and B-1 bombers, along with C-130 Specter gunships, are commonly used throughout the country to support troops on the ground.

The exact number of dead was difficult to determine.

“The information we got was that there were about seven dozen dead insurgents,” Belcher said.

There were no reports of injuries or deaths to coalition forces or civilians.

According to a tally by The Associated Press, more than 5,200 people have died this year as a result of the Taliban insurgency.


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