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13 'high-ranking' al Qaeda fighters killed

The United States is still pursuing al Qaeda fighters
The United States is still pursuing al Qaeda fighters  

KABUL, Afghanistan (CNN) -- Thirteen people killed in a gunfight with Afghan soldiers south of Kabul were "high ranking" and "dangerous" members of the al Qaeda terror network, according to an Afghan official.

Afghan Foreign Minister Abdullah told a news conference on Thursday that the 13 had escaped from a prison in Kabul after cutting through bars in the prison.

After escaping, they were trapped by Afghan soldiers in a village south of the city, where the troops shot dead 11 of them on Wednesday.

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The other two blew themselves up with hand grenades, he said.

A probe is under way to find out how the group escaped and where they got their weapons.

Two Afghan soldiers were also killed in the gun battle.

The group -- which took some civilian hostages in the village -- was made up of 12 Pakistani nationals and one Tajik national, Abdullah said. The hostages escaped uninjured.

Abdullah said the 13 al Qaeda members were captured while resisting Afghan and coalition forces late last year.

Prisoners of war

All of them had been registered as prisoners of war with the International Committee of the Red Cross.

The foreign minister would not elaborate on what evidence he had to confirm they were high ranking members of the network.

The announcement comes one day after a patrol of U.S. Special Forces and paratroopers were ambushed, about 30 kilometers southwest of Khowst.

In the third attack on U.S. forces in three days, one para-trooper was shot in the chest and is reported to be in stable condition.




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