Gun battle on Pakistan border

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The Independent Online

Pakistani soldiers fought a two–hour gunbattle with about 30 Taliban fighters who tried to flee into Pakistan to escape the US bombing, Pakistani defense and intelligence officials said today.

It was the second time that Taliban forces have moved into Pakistan since the US–led bombing campaign began Sunday night to destroy Osama bin Laden's terrorist network in Afghanistan, the officials said on condition of anonymity.

On Monday, Taliban pilots flew five helicopters across the border about 30 kilometers (18 miles) north of Torkham, where they were detained by Pakistani authorities, the officials said.

The Pakistani foreign ministry denied the report about the helicopters. However, three Pakistani officials from different ministries insisted the report was correct.

The gun battle took place Tuesday at the Nawanpas border check post near the Afghan city of Jalalabad, the defense and intelligence sources said.

Pakistani paramilitary troops guarding the border saw about 30 Taliban soldiers trying to cross into Pakistani territory – presumably to escape the US bombing in the nearby Jalalabad area.

The Pakistanis signaled the Afghans to turn back and fired warning shots in the air. The Taliban returned fire and the exchange went on for about two hours before the Afghans withdrew, the sources said.

It was unclear whether anyone was wounded.

Such incursions are not uncommon along the rugged, poorly marked border area. However, Pakistan has stepped up security in wake of the crisis which began after the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks in the United States, which Washington and its allies blame on bin Laden.

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