updated 6/19/2004 9:54:41 AM ET 2004-06-19T13:54:41

Taliban insurgents attacked a government office in southern Afghanistan, sparking a gunfight with Afghan troops that killed seven people, police said Saturday.

Just to the north, the U.S. military said two American soldiers were wounded and their Afghan interpreter killed when their vehicle hit a mine.

The gunfight occurred late Friday when 60 Taliban attacked a government office in Mizan, a town in Zabul province some 230 miles southwest of the capital, Kabul, Zabul deputy police chief Ghulam Jailiani said.

Five attackers and two Afghan soldiers died in the two-hour clash, which ended when a U.S. helicopter appeared and drove the Taliban away, Jailiani said.

Three Afghan soldiers were wounded and taken to an American base for treatment. The three wounded were part of the force of 50 Afghan soldiers defending the office.

Jailiani said authorities had recovered a satellite telephone, walkie-talkies and weapons left behind by the Taliban, who retreated on foot to nearby mountains.

The two American soldiers were wounded Thursday night when their vehicle struck a mine about 30 miles north of Qalat, Zabul’s capital, U.S. military spokesman Lt. Col. Tucker Mansager said.

“It did result in an interpreter being killed and two soldiers wounded,” Mansager said.

The soldiers were in stable condition at the U.S. base in the southern city of Kandahar, he said.

He didn’t identify any of the three victims.

Militants still active in region
The attacks showed that militants are still operating in the Zabul region of southern Afghanistan, despite U.S. claims of killing more than 80 rebels since May 25.

The military has claimed that the operation, led by a 2,000-strong contingent of U.S. Marines, is helping stabilize the region so that voters can register for national elections due in September.

But U.N. registration teams have yet to enter many remote parts of the south and east. Two British contractors for the United Nations were killed in May, the deadliest in a string of attacks on election workers.

Mansager also said U.S. troops came under fire from a small group of militants Friday south of Khost, a city near the Pakistani border. He had no word on any casualties.

He was also unable to confirm reports of an attack on a small U.S. camp in central Uruzgan province, where the Marines are based.

Uruzgan Gov. Jan Mohammed Khan said a band of about 30 Taliban militants fired 40 rockets at the camp in Char Cheno, a remote district which has seen several clashes between U.S. forces and militants.

Khan said one Taliban fighter was killed and four wounded in the ensuing gunfight, but he had no word on any U.S. casualties.

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