KABUL, Afghanistan - Afghan troops backed by Western air power have killed at least 60 extremists near the Pakistan border, Afghan security officials said Wednesday, in one of the single biggest assaults against the Taliban-linked Haqqani network.
U.S. officials say Washington has intensified its drive against the network in an attempt to deal a lasting blow before foreign combat forces depart at the end of the year.
The National Directorate of Security, Afghanistan's main intelligence agency, said in a statement that about 300 Haqqani insurgents and foreign fighters came under intense fire Monday when they tried to storm Afghan bases in the Ziruk district of Paktika province.
Interior Ministry spokesman Sediq Sediqqi said Afghan forces were already in position after receiving information about imminent attacks by the insurgents.
"Hundreds of insurgents tried to take over the district center, but we were there and hit them with a huge blow," Sediqqi told Reuters, adding that five Afghan policemen were hurt.
"Dead bodies, wounded fighters, their weapons and pickup trucks were left on the battlefield," Sediqqi added.
The NATO-led international force declined to comment.
The Haqqani network, which professes obedience to Taliban leader Mullah Mohammad Omar, is believed to have been involved in some of the most deadly attacks of the Afghan war.
The group has been blamed for attacks on hotels popular with foreigners in Kabul, the bombing of the Indian Embassy in the capital, a 2011 attack on the U.S. Embassy, and several big attempted truck bombings.
The United States listed the group as a terrorist organization in 2012. It also accuses Pakistan's powerful spy agency of supporting the network and using it as a proxy in Afghanistan to gain leverage against growing influence of its archrival India. Pakistan denies that.
Monday's battle occurred in the southeast province of Paktika, which shares a long and porous border with lawless areas in Pakistan where foreign fighters and the Haqqani network are believed to be based.