'Special forces killed'


AT least 35 US special forces soldiers were killed and many injured in a firefight with pro-Taliban troops in southern Afghanistan, a Pakistani newspaper has reported.

There has been no confirmation of the report in the daily newspaper, The News.

US officials were not immediately available for comment.

The News quoted unnamed sources as saying the Americans took heavy casualties in an attack launched on Thursday on the Taliban militia and troops of the al Qaeda network of terror suspect Osama bin Laden.

The US troops were backed by helicopter gunships in the attack "but were caught by surprise and had to withdraw quickly," the daily said.

"At least 35 personnel of the US Special Forces were killed and many injured" in the battle," The News said. It gave no other details of the fighting.

The newspaper said 35 bodies and an unspecified number of injured were flown by helicopter to Jacobabad Airbase in Pakistan.

Ten C-130 transport planes were ready to fly the bodies back to the United States, it said.

"The Pentagon and the Centcom (US Central Command) are very much perturbed over this development and there are reports of immediate measures being contemplated to counter the situation," The News said. It did not elaborate.