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Afghanistan: U.S. Soldier, Gunman Killed In Fighting

Kabul, 20 May 2002 (RFE/RL) -- U.S. military officials in Afghanistan say one American special forces soldier and one enemy gunman were killed in a clash in a mountainous area of eastern Afghanistan. Officials said the clash yesterday in the Shkin mountain region also injured one Afghan who had been fighting on the side of American forces.

U.S. military spokesman Major Bryan Hilferty said the fighting erupted when a U.S. special forces unit came under heavy fire from forces believed linked to Al-Qaeda and the Taliban.

Hilferty said the U.S. forces returned fire.

The mountainous area of eastern Afghanistan near Khost and Gardez is a suspected hideout for Taliban and Al-Qaeda fighters.

Meanwhile, a British Ministry of Defense spokesman says that Brigadier Roger Lane, the commander of the Royal Marines in Afghanistan, is being replaced.

The spokesman said Lane will leave at the end of next month.

Lane will be succeeded by Brigadier Jim Dutton.

British Defense Secretary Geoff Hoon dismissed as "nonsense" reports of frustration among the British troops in Afghanistan under Lane's leadership.

Hoon said that Lane has been doing "a tremendous job in very difficult conditions" in Afghanistan.

British marines, trained in mountain warfare and sent to Afghanistan in a combat role, have failed so far to engage Al-Qaeda or Taliban fighters.