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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

U.S. Helicopter Downed in Battle With al-Qaida

WASHINGTON -- At least six U.S. troops were killed and 10 wounded Monday when an American Army special forces helicopter was shot down in Afghanistan as Afghan and Western forces pressed their biggest attack of the war against regrouping al-Qaida and Taliban fighters, a U.S. official said.

"The reports are preliminary, but there appear to be six killed and 10 injured," said the official, who asked not to be identified.

Pentagon spokeswoman Victoria Clarke refused to discuss figures, but confirmed an MH-47 Army special forces helicopter crashed after it took ground fire while headed into the fierce battle in mountains near Gardez. The MH-47 "Chinook" helicopters can carry as many as 32 troops and crew but it was not immediately known how many were aboard.

"A small number of American troops were killed," she told reporters, adding that there had been "very fierce resistance on the part of the al-Qaida."

Clarke said more than 1,000 American troops were involved in the fighting, which began Friday night.

Also on Monday, a U.S. military base was attacked by rockets as ground fighting resumed in the biggest U.S.-led ground attack of the Afghan war on Taliban and al-Qaida forces.

There were other signs of revived Taliban-al-Qaida action in eastern provinces adjacent to the key snow-covered front line near Gardez, capital of Paktia province, 150 kilometers from Kabul.

Unconfirmed reports said that Canadian, Australian, Danish, German and French forces and planes had joined U.S. troops in the operation around Gardez that started early Saturday morning.

The Monday morning rocket attack was on a U.S. base near the city of Khost. Khost Shura spokesman Kamal Wazir said the airport was hit by two rockets and fire from men armed with Kalashnikov rifles. "The firing went on for five minutes from 3.20 a.m.," Wazir said by telephone from Khost, about 160 kilometers southeast of the capital Kabul.

"Shortly after the attack a U.S. plane bombed the site of the firing," he added. "Our troops also rushed to the area but the gunmen had escaped."

Checkposts, manned by U.S. soldiers, have been established on roads from Khost to Gardez to stop al-Qaida-Taliban fighters joining the Gardez fighting.

U.S. warplanes launched fierce bombing raids Monday on the area around the high-altitude village of Shahi Kot where Afghan soldiers said either hundreds or thousands of al-Qaida-Taliban forces are in bunkers and caves.

Fierce resistance from rebel forces repulsed the U.S.-led offensive Saturday, forcing Afghan fighters and U.S. advisers to withdraw close to Gardez. One U.S. soldier and five Afghan troops have died and there have been about 20 wounded so far.