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World News

NATO and Pakistan troops kill Taliban on Afghan border

KABUL (Reuters) - NATO troops in Afghanistan and Pakistani soldiers together killed a number of militants along the rugged border, the NATO force said on Tuesday, in a rare show of close cross-border military cooperation.

Pakistani paramilitary soldiers patrol near Bara, a town in the Khyber tribal region near the Afghan border June 29, 2008. REUTERS/Mohammad Shahkar

Afghan officials have for the past month showered Islamabad with accusations it was aiding Taliban insurgents against Kabul, and NATO said on Sunday there could be no peace in Afghanistan as long as militants have sanctuaries in Pakistan.

But Afghan, Pakistani and NATO’s troops do have regular and open lines of communication to try to coordinate actions along the long and porous border.

Taliban insurgents fired rockets and rocket-propelled grenades at an outpost of troops from NATO’s International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) in the Spera district of Khost province in eastern Afghanistan on Monday.

The troops responded with mortar, artillery fire and air strikes and the militants fled across the border.

“ISAF forces thus coordinated with the Pakistan military border area counterparts; and the Pakistan border force subsequently fired artillery on the retreating insurgents inside Pakistan,” ISAF said in a statement.

ISAF does not disclose Taliban casualty figures.

Pakistani military spokesmen were not immediately available for comment.

Separately in Khost, U.S.-led coalition troops in Afghanistan killed 33 militants in air strikes on Monday, the U.S. military said in a statement.

The attack took place around 7 kilometres (4 miles) from the Pakistan border when coalition helicopter gunships and air support bombers identified insurgents’ positions and attacked them, a coalition spokesman said.

But a Taliban spokesman said the group had lost only 10 fighters in the attack.

The coordinated attacks between NATO and Pakistani troops contrast with a border clash on June 10 in which Pakistan said 11 of its soldiers were killed in an airstrike by U.S. forces in the border area.

U.S. officials have ordered an investigation into the incident, but say those killed were firing on U.S. forces and there were no Pakistani military units in the area at the time.

Almost all ISAF troops in eastern Afghanistan are American.

Elsewhere, four Afghan police were killed when their truck hit a roadside bomb in the southern province of Uruzgan late on Monday night, a senior police officer in the area said.

Violence has been at its worst in Afghanistan in the past two years, the bloodiest period since U.S.-led troops overthrew the Taliban government in 2001.

The Taliban, who have some bases in the lawless tribal region of Pakistan, relaunched their insurgency in 2006 to drive out foreign troops in Afghanistan and topple the government in Kabul.

Poor relations and mutual historical distrust between Pakistan and Afghanistan have dogged efforts to undermine the hardline Islamist insurgency which now threatens both countries along the Pashtun belt on both sides of the border.

Writing by Jon Hemming; Editing by Ben Tan

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