Spike in violence in Afghanistan takes NATO death toll to 24 in June

By Rohan Sullivan, AP
Tuesday, June 8, 2010

Bomb kills 2 US troops; NATO losses at 24 for June

KABUL, Afghanistan — Two American troops were killed by a roadside bomb and a British soldier was shot dead on patrol Tuesday, raising the NATO death toll in Afghanistan to two dozen in little more than a week.

The bloodshed spiked ahead of a major NATO operation in the Taliban’s southern heartland. U.S. commanders have warned of more casualties as the alliance gears up to clear Kandahar, the biggest city in Afghanistan’s south and the former headquarters of the Taliban.

NATO announced the three deaths Tuesday without identifying nationalities. But U.S. and British authorities provided the nationalities of the victims, all of whom died in the south.

The deaths took NATO’s death toll in June to 24, including 14 Americans, according to a count by The Associated Press based on official announcements.

Monday was the deadliest day of the year for the international force in Afghanistan with 10 deaths, including seven Americans, two Australians and one French Legionnaire. They were killed in five separate insurgent attacks in the south and east of the country. Two civilian contractors training police, an American and a Nepalese, also died in a suicide attack Monday in Kandahar city.

Afghan officials said two other battles raged overnight between Afghan and NATO forces, in the provinces of Kandahar and Badghis in the northwest. No NATO casualties were reported.

The range of attacks served as a grim reminder the insurgents can strike throughout the country — not simply in the south, which has become the main focus of the U.S.-led campaign.

U.S. President Barack Obama in December ordered 30,000 more U.S. troops to Afghanistan to try to stem the rise of the Taliban, who have bounced back since they were ousted from power in the 2001 U.S.-led invasion.

In the northern city of Mazar-e-Sharif, more than 1,000 people shouted “Death to America, Long Live Islam!” and burned an effigy of the pope in an angry demonstration against alleged Christian proselytizing in Afghanistan.

Afghan authorities on May 31 suspended operations of Church World Service, based in Elkhart, Indiana, and Norwegian Church Aid pending an investigation of allegations carried in an Afghan television report. Both charities deny spreading Christianity.

Mohammad Hashim Mayar, deputy director of the Afghan group that coordinates nongovernment organizations in the country, said officials at the intelligence service that is conducting the investigation told him Tuesday it was yet to be completed.

“We are waiting for the results impatiently,” Mayar told AP Television News. “If we do not know the final result, the situation will get worse and the security of the expatriate and national workers of the NGOs will be endangered.”

In Badghis, Afghan special forces backed by U.S. helicopter gunships battled insurgents for 12 hours overnight Monday in a remote Taliban-controlled region, killing 23 militants, said the commander, Maj. Zainudin Sharifi.

And Kandahar’s provincial government said in a statement Tuesday that Afghan and NATO troops had battled Taliban militants in the Mianshen district, killing 14 insurgents.

The Interior Ministry said seven Afghan private security guards were killed two separate attacks in eastern Ghazni province.

As fighting escalates, the Afghan government is reaching out to the insurgents in hopes of ending the war.

Last week, President Hamid Karzai won endorsement from a national conference for his plan to offer incentives to the militants to lay down their arms, and to seek talks with the Taliban leadership. The leadership has so far publicly shunned the offer, and the U.S. is skeptical whether peace can succeed until the Taliban are weakened on the battlefield.


Associated Press writers Rahim Faiez and Matthew Pennington in Kabul, Mirwais Khan in Kandahar, AP Television News in Mazar-e-Sharif, and Rod McGuirk in Canberra, Australia, contributed to this report.

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