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Fighters kill at least 60 insurgents

AFGHAN troops backed by Western air power have killed at least 60 militants near the Pakistan border, Afghan security officials said yesterday, in one of the single biggest assaults against the Taliban-linked Haqqani network.

US officials say Washington has intensified its drive against the network in an attempt to deal a lasting blow to the militants before foreign combat forces depart at the end of the year.

The National Directorate of Security, Afghanistan's main intelligence agency, said in a statement that about 300 Haqqani insurgents and foreign fighters came under intensive fire on Monday when they tried to storm Afghan bases in Ziruk district of Paktika province.

Interior Ministry spokesman Sediq Sediqqi said Afghan forces were already in position after receiving information about imminent attacks by the insurgents.

"Hundreds of insurgents tried to take over the district centre but we were there and hit them with a huge blow," Sediqqi told Reuters, adding that five Afghan policemen were wounded.

The NATO-led international force declined to comment.

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