NBC, msnbc.com and news services
updated 9/22/2010 8:15:59 PM ET 2010-09-23T00:15:59

Insurgents attacked a NATO and Afghan army outpost in eastern Afghanistan near the Pakistan border and at least 25 of the militants were killed in the resulting skirmish, officials said Wednesday.

Troops at the combat outpost in Spera district of Khost province returned fire with mortars late Tuesday, killing 25 to 30 insurgents, NATO said in a statement. Initial reports found there were no civilian casualties, it said.

Gen. Raz Mohmmad Horya Khil, a senior commander of the Afghan National Army in the province, said 29 insurgents were killed. There were no casualties among NATO or Afghan troops, he said.

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Horya Khil said the attack, coming from the Pakistan side of the border, was directed at the Mir Safar joint-NATO and Afghan army camp and lasted for more than two hours. Helicopters were called in to provide support.

Bodies and weapons on the field were being recovered, he said.

On Wednesday, a NATO service member was killed by a homemade bomb in southern Afghanistan.

NATO provided no further details, but the Danish military announced in Copenhagen that the bomb blast killed a Danish soldier and seriously injured another. The two members of the Royal Life Guards were on foot patrol in Helmand province when the bomb went off, it said.

Denmark has lost more than 30 soldiers in Afghanistan since it joined the coalition in 2002.

The Scandinavian country has more than 700 troops serving in the NATO-led force. Most are based in Helmand province.

Copter crash remains mystery
The death followed the crash of a NATO helicopter in southern Afghanistan on Tuesday that killed nine American troops in the worst coalition helicopter crash in Afghanistan in four years.

This year has already become the deadliest of the Afghan war for international troops, surpassing last year's total of 504 deaths.

U.S. military officials told NBC News that those killed were on a Special Operations mission.

Story: Afghan helicopter crash kills 9 Americans

The U.S. military said Wednesday that three Navy SEALs and a Naval Special Warfare support technician are among the dead. Five U.S. Army air crew members also died in the crash. Three other coalition personnel are in critical condition at a U.S. medical facility in Afghanistan, according to a military news release.

The coalition would not disclose the helicopter's mission, and the cause of the crash was not immediately clear. NATO said there were no reports of enemy fire at the time in the Daychopan district of Zabul province, where the crash took place.

However, Taliban spokesman Qari Yousef Ahmadi told The Associated Press by telephone that insurgents shot down the helicopter. The Taliban often exaggerate their claims and sometimes take credit for accidents.

The names of the Navy members killed, as reported by the military, are: Lt. Brendan Looney, 29, of Owings, Md., Senior Chief Cryptologic Technician David McLendon, 30, of Thomasville, Ga., Special Warfare Operator 2nd Class Adam Smith, 26, of Hurland, Mo., and Special Warfare Operator 3rd Class Denis Miranda, 24, of Toms River, N.J.

Looney graduated from the U.S. Naval Academy in 2004 where he was an all-American for the Navy lacrosse team.

McLendon was a Navy cryptologic technician assigned to an East Coast Naval Special Warfare unit.

Smith entered the Navy in October 2004 and was assigned to an East Coast SEAL Team.

Miranda entered the Navy in September 2003 and was also assigned to an East Coast SEAL team.

A father of a Clark County, Wash., soldier said his son was among the victims of the crash. Rod McClellan told The Columbian newspaper that 26-year-old Army Chief Warrant Officer Jonah McClellan was among the dead. The younger McClellan was a Blackhawk helicopter pilot with the 101st Airborne; it was unclear if he was flying the helicopter that crashed.

Fort Campbell spokesman Rick Rzepka said that five of the soldiers were assigned to the 101st Combat Aviation Brigade and their families have been notified. Their identities have not been released.

Information from the Associated Press is included in this report.

Video: Obama staves off fallout from Afghan war book

  1. Transcript of: Obama staves off fallout from Afghan war book

    WILLIAMS: Our White House correspondent Savannah Guthrie here with us in New York because the president is at the UN in New York . What's going on at this days-long gathering?

    SAVANNAH GUTHRIE reporting: Well, this is his second meeting of the UN General Assembly , and he'll give kind of a status report on US foreign policy when he addresses the assembly tomorrow with a real emphasis on what the US is trying to do with these direct talks in the Middle East .

    WILLIAMS: And about this book that came out, what's been the reaction, considering they invited this journalist in, cooperated, from the traveling White House ?

    GUTHRIE: Well, it's fascinating. On the one hand, it's probably bad or at least awkward for some individuals inside the White House because some of the in-fighting that Andrea described. But as far as that larger narrative, frankly the White House is embracing it. They think this shows a president who is very much in command, somebody who went through a very deliberative process, leaned hard on the military, say, 'We need an exit strategy.' And they make no apologies for considering the politics, all of it, recognizing, in their view, that you've got to have America behind the war if you want to get Congress to fund the war.

    WILLIAMS: Which leads us, Andrea , to a final question. This does conveniently lay out all the moving parts and their argument for history.

    MITCHELL: Right.

    WILLIAMS: But I heard Dave Gergen make the point today, what happened to keeping national security deliberations private instead of inviting in a leading investigative journalist?

    MITCHELL: And we've seen this before in other White Houses , mostly focused on domestic and economic policy, but also some national security issues. But this really does raise the stakes because the major players who are negotiating with other countries, as Savannah is covering this week here in New York , now have really the scabs pulled off of all of these wounds, and that's damaging and there's going to be some bleeding.

    WILLIAMS: All right, Andrea Mitchell , Savannah Guthrie , thanks to you both for joining us here in New York tonight.

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