South Asia

Nato troops repel insurgent attack in Afghanistan

Aerial view of Paktika province, Afghanistan
Image caption Paktika province is a remote region close to the border with Pakistan

Nato says its forces in Afghanistan have killed at least 19 Taliban fighters who tried to storm a combat outpost under cover of darkness.

The attack happened at a base in Paktika province, bordering Pakistan.

The militants are reported to have attacked from all directions, using rifles and rocket-propelled grenades.

Meanwhile, President Hamid Karzai has criticised the first joint operation by Russian and US agents to destroy drug laboratories in Afghanistan.

Mr Karzai said Thursday's raid had taken place without his government's permission and was a clear violation of Afghan sovereignty.

A Russian official said about 70 military personnel and counter-narcotics agents were involved, and that they had destroyed a "major hub" about 5km (three miles) from the Pakistani border, near Jalalabad.

They seized more than a tonne of heroin and opium destined for Central Asia, which had a street value of $250m (£157m), he added.

The BBC's Quentin Sommerville in Kabul says Afghanistan's elite counter narcotics force, which relies heavily on foreign training, did participate in the operation but it appears the president's office was not informed of who would accompany them.

Nato wants to expand Russian involvement in Afghanistan, but given the history between Russia and Afghanistan that is a sensitive issue, our correspondent says.

The president said he wanted friendly ties with Moscow, but that the relationship had to be based on mutual consent. Any repetition of the operation would be met with a reaction from Afghanistan, he added.

Porous border

In Saturday's fighting, five soldiers from the Nato-led coalition were wounded.

The assault was said to have been so fierce that troops inside the outpost had to call in air support to repel the militants.

Initial reports indicated that as many as 30 militants had been killed.

A statement from the International Security and Assistance Force (Isaf) said that none of its troops was killed. Most of the soldiers in the area are from the US.

Our correspondent says that combat outposts are often small, remote bases and are frequent targets for well-planned attacks using rockets and mortars.

Local commanders say many of the insurgents in the area come mainly from across the border in Pakistan, our correspondent adds.

The border region has long been a hiding place for Islamist extremists and has been targeted in drone attacks against the Taliban and al-Qaeda.