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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Rival Warlords Clash in West Afghanistan

BAGRAM, Afghanistan -- The forces of two rival warlords battled for a third day in western Afghanistan on Monday, pounding each other's positions with tank and artillery fire.

Ethnic Pashtun commander Ammanullah Khan accused Ismail Khan, the Tajik governor of Herat, of launching attacks Saturday on several small villages at Zer-e-Koh, about 24 kilometers south of Shindand air base, where U.S. soldiers are located.

Intense artillery exchanges continued Monday morning, and Ammanullah Khan said eight of his troops were injured. On Sunday, 11 of his men were killed and eight were wounded. There was no word of casualties on the side of Ismail Khan, whose spokesmen were unavailable for comment.

On Sunday, U.S. special forces patrolling just south of the town of Shindand came under fire from unidentified Afghan assailants, prompting them to call in the first reported airstrike from a U.S. B-52 bomber since the summer.

The B-52 dropped seven 900-kilogram satellite-guided "smart bombs" after the special forces were trapped by heavy weapons fire, including rockets and mortars fired from armored vehicles, said Colonel Roger King, a spokesman at Bagram Air Base, the U.S. military headquarters in Afghanistan. It was unknown who fired on the Americans.

There were no U.S. casualties from the shooting, King said. King and Ammanullah Khan both said they were unaware of any casualties from the U.S. bombing.

The last time B-52s dropped bombs in Afghanistan was in August or September, King said. The huge bombers -- many of which are based on the Indian Ocean island of Diego Garcia -- routinely fly patrols over Afghanistan. King said the B-52 bombing had nothing to do with the factional fighting, saying it came only in response to U.S. forces being fired upon.

U.S. forces have also been repeatedly rocketed in the troubled eastern city of Khost, and last week gunmen ambushed a U.S. special forces convoy near the eastern town of Gardez, wounding one U.S. soldier in the leg.

Ammanullah Khan said the fighting in the west began when his troops, who control Zer-e-Koh, came under fire from Ismail Khan's forces manning artillery, mortars, machine guns and tanks in mountains above the area.

 An international conference aimed at keeping the year-old drive to stabilize Afghanistan on track opened Monday in Germany with a plea by President Hamid Karzai for help in extending security beyond Kabul to the whole country. The meeting brought together top Afghan officials and envoys from 31 countries that helped forge a historic accord in Germany last December to install Karzai after the United States drove the Taliban from power.