Twenty-three combatants and two American Marines were killed in a fierce gun-battle in the eastern province of Laghman, the US military said on Monday.
The fatalities took place Sunday evening when the Marines - backed by warplanes - clashed with a group of 25 militants in a Laghman area, 50 kilometer northwest of Jalalabad, the military said in a press release issued here earlier.
US spokesman Col. James Yonts, without revealing as to how many suffered injuries in the intense fighting, put the death toll for the fighters at a dozen and said two Marines were also shot dead in the five-hour fight.
But a revised statement released to the media later in the day explained the Marines, after receiving intelligence, rushed to the area to flush out the rebels hiding there. As the soldiers maneuvered toward the insurgents, they came under attack with small arms and rocket-propelled grenades.
During the course of the fighting lasting five hours, the statement claimed, the fighters split into two groups - one fleeing to a nearby village and the other burrowing into a cave on a ridgeline.
In recent weeks, Taliban and their allies have stepped up attacks on Afghan army troops and US-led coalition forces in different parts of Afghanistan. Scores of combatants and 10 government soldiers were killed last week in fierce clashes in southern provinces, including a clash in Zabul.
Despite coalition forces' assertions that insurgents had been considerably weakened in the wake of crippling military operations, recent weeks have witnessed a palpable surge in violence.
Belying coalition claims, the fighters killed a US soldier in the central Uruzgan province on April 26 in a daring ambush, followed by two days of a high-casualty clash in Zabul.
May 10, 2005