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As U.S. offensive builds, Taliban assault kills two Americans

U.S. Marines from the 2nd Marine Expeditionary Brigade patrol a village in Helmand province in southern Afghanistan on Saturday. In eastern Afghanistan, Taliban militants attacked a base.

Associated Press

U.S. Marines from the 2nd Marine Expeditionary Brigade patrol a village in Helmand province in southern Afghanistan on Saturday. In eastern Afghanistan, Taliban militants attacked a base.

KABUL, Afghanistan — Insurgents armed with rockets, mortars and a truck bomb staged an unusual frontal attack on a U.S. base in eastern Afghanistan on Saturday, killing two American soldiers and forcing the defenders to call in airstrikes to avoid being overrun.

The assault, which came as thousands of American troops were taking part in an anti-Taliban offensive hundreds of miles away in Helmand province in southern Afghanistan, pointed up the insurgents' ability to take the fight to a location of their choosing — in this case a remote outpost in Paktika province, which borders Pakistan's tribal areas.

The incident also illustrated militant groups' continuing capability to stage sophisticated, multipronged attacks in Afghanistan's eastern border zone, despite the Pakistani army's efforts in recent weeks to rein in insurgents who use the tribal areas in Pakistan as a staging ground.

Saturday's attack on a small base in Zerok district, which lasted several hours, took place in the same area where a U.S. soldier disappeared Tuesday. The U.S. military said two days later that the missing man was believed to have been captured. A search is under way.

American military officials said several U.S. soldiers were wounded in addition to the two killed in the base attack, but declined to provide a more precise figure. Military officials said at least 10 insurgents were killed in counterstrikes by U.S. and Afghan troops.

The attackers fired at least one shell containing white phosphorus, a highly incendiary agent, NATO's International Security Assistance Force said in a statement. Western military officials have accused insurgents of using white phosphorus in several previous attacks.

As U.S. offensive builds, Taliban assault kills two Americans 07/04/09 [Last modified: Saturday, July 4, 2009 8:40pm]

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