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Afghanistan: Coalition Troops Engage In New Fighting

Bagram, Afghanistan; 17 May 2002 (RFE/RL) -- A British commander says coalition forces in eastern Afghanistan have engaged in combat with a "substantial force" of enemy fighters. British Brigadier Roger Lane said the coalition is sending more troops into the fight. He said operations will be backed by U.S. air support.

Lane said that Australian special forces came under fire yesterday while on patrol in a mountainous area of the Paktia province. Lane said there were no casualties among the Australians, but that the coalition soldiers killed several suspected Taliban fighters.

Lane said about 1,000 Australian and American forces are involved in the new British-led mission, dubbed Operation Condor.

The U.S.-led coalition says it has been stepping up its search in eastern Afghanistan for remaining Al-Qaeda and Taliban fighters.

A report by the Afghan Islamic Press agency says at least 10 people were killed and a number of others wounded in bombing by U.S. warplanes in the eastern Afghan province of Khost.

The report says bombs struck in Bal Khel village in the Sabari district, some 30 kilometers northeast of the city of Khost. No comment from the U.S. military was immediately available.