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Raid kills 22 Taliban, al Qaeda

U.S. civilians die in Afghan battle

Anti-Taliban fighters in Afghanistan.
Anti-Taliban fighters in Afghanistan.

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KABUL, Afghanistan -- At least 22 fighters from the ousted Taliban regime and al Qaeda network were killed in an aerial assault by U.S.-led forces in southeastern Paktika province, according to Reuters..

Air support was called in on Tuesday after a group of Taliban and al Qaeda fugitives fired rockets and heavy machine-guns on a base used by U.S.-led troops and their Afghan allies in Shkin, near the Pakistan border, on Saturday, said Paktika province govenor Mohammad Ali Jalali.

Meanwhile, Pentagon sources say two Americans civilians -- identified as U.S. State Department contract workers -- were killed in a raid against suspected Taliban and al Qaeda forces Saturday southwest of the Afghan border town of Shkin.

The sources said the two were State Department contract workers, but a State Department official said it had no information on any of its contractors being killed, and none would have been involved in this type of operation.

In the raid, 10 suspected enemy fighters were killed by Afghan army troops backed up by U.S. helicopters and war planes, the Pentagon sources said Monday.

But in the firefight two U.S. civilians were killed, according to Pentagon officials. The officials said the two were working with the Afghan army troops. One Pentagon official said the two apparently were hit by "armor piercing rounds."

While some sources indicated to CNN the dead Americans may been working for the Central Intelligence Agency, the CIA referred all inquiries to the State Department.

"They are listed as State Department contract security officers," a U.S. official told CNN.

But the State Department official disputed that. "None of our guys got hit," the official said. "We don't know who these guys are."

State Department employees taking part on Provincial Reconstruction Teams, which travel the country in convoys seeking out areas that need reconstruction assistance, travel only with U.S. civilian military officers and do not engage in active combat, the official said.

The rocky border area -- along the border with Pakistan -- has been the scene of a number of fierce battles recently in which U.S. military forces and their Afghan allies have mounted attacks against resurgent Taliban and al Qaeda guerrillas.

-- From CNN Senior Pentagon Correspondent Jamie McIntyre and CNN State Department Producer Elise Labott

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