Source AP ©

US military attack in Tora Bora seeks Taliban

U.S. officials announced that hundreds of coalition soldiers had launched an offensive in Tora Bora targeting foreign fighters, whom they initially said included al-Qaida.

Asked about cooperation with Afghan neighbor Pakistan in policing the frontier, Ham said military leaders communicate with the Pakistanis but there is no close coordination. The Pakistanis are conducting their own operations, he said.

Army Lt. Gen. Carter Ham, director for operations for the Joint Chiefs of Staff, said in Washington that the number of enemy killed or captured so far in the operation by coalition and Afghan troops was "in the teens."

He said he was not aware of any high-value Taliban targets being found in the area and said the intelligence report did not indicate the presence of al-Qaida fighters.

Ham added that the offensive had been hampered by bad weather so troops were still moving into position in the remote mountainous area, which was heavily bombarded in late 2001 as U.S. troops hunted Osama bin Laden and his associates after the Sept. 11 attacks.

A gunbattle between NATO soldiers and Taliban insurgents, meanwhile, left five civilians dead and three others injured in eastern Afghanistan , an alliance statement said Friday. The NATO troops were hit by a roadside bomb, then came under small-arms fire and mortar attacks, said the alliance, which did not disclose the exact location of the fighting. Two Taliban fighters were also wounded.

"Such incidents are regrettable, and our thoughts and prayers are with the families and friends of those killed and wounded in this very unfortunate incident," the NATO statement said. "Every effort is being made to provide the best medical treatment to the injured Afghans."

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