4 NATO troops die in Afghan south and east; blasts in Kandahar kill up to 4 Afghan policemen

By Robert Kennedy, AP
Monday, October 4, 2010

Blasts kill 4 NATO troops, up to 4 Afghan police

KABUL, Afghanistan — Three explosions just minutes apart rocked southern Kandahar city, killing as many as four Afghan police officers, while four NATO service members died in attacks that increased the coalition’s death toll to 11 in the first week of October.

Two policemen were killed and 10 others wounded in the explosions in Afghanistan’s largest city in the south, said Zelmai Ayubi, a spokesman for the provincial governor. Officials at Mirwais Hospital reported a higher death toll, saying four officers died and 17 people were wounded.

Ayubi said the first explosion targeted an Afghan police office, and when officers gathered to tend to the wounded, two more blasts went off.

Control of Kandahar, the Taliban movement’s birthplace, is seen as key to the Afghan conflict. Afghan and NATO forces are engaged in a major operation to push out militants of strongholds there.

President Barack Obama spoke with Afghan leader Hamid Karzai via video teleconference Monday, including discussions on Afghan forces taking the lead in security operations by 2014 as promised.

The Afghan army now has 140,000 active soldiers with another 20,000 being trained. The goal is 240,000 troops. But the Afghan army and police are still widely seen as hobbled by a lack of education, drug abuse and corruption, raising doubts about whether they will be able to take control from NATO.

In other violence, three NATO troops were killed by bomb blasts in southern Afghanistan on Monday and an insurgent attack killed another in the east, a bloody start to October for the alliance with 11 dead this month. At least 57 NATO service members were killed in September, including 42 Americans, according to an Associated Press tally.

It has been the deadliest year for international troops in the nine-year Afghan conflict, and the escalating toll has shaken the commitment of many NATO countries with rising calls to start drawing down troops quickly.

Also on Monday, NATO said a joint Afghan-coalition mission killed a senior Taliban leader named Farman and two other militants in eastern Paktia province. Farman “terrorized the local population by participating in attacks, kidnappings, interrogations and executions of Afghan civilians,” NATO said.

Taliban spokesman Qari Yousef Ahmadi accused NATO of engaging in a propaganda campaign to demoralize the insurgents’ moral by inventing Taliban leaders and alleging they were killed or captured.

“Most of the commanders’ names NATO are using don’t even exist,” Ahmadi told The Associated Press. “This is just a game from the American side, nothing else.”

In western Nimroz province Monday, a police convoy was ambushed in Khash Rod district, said provincial police chief Gen. Abdul Jabar Pardeli. Five militants were killed, three others wounded and two captured during a gunbattle. Police suffered no casualties, he said.

A former district chief, Habibullah Aghonzada, was gunned down by assailants as he prayed at a packed mosque in Kandahar city on Monday, the governor’s office said in a statement.

Associated Press writers Rahim Faiez in Kabul and Mirwais Khan in Kandahar contributed to this report.

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