NATO: 8 service members killed in Afghanistan
KABUL, Afghanistan (AP) — Eight NATO service members were killed in a spate of attacks in Afghanistan on Thursday, including four in roadside bombings, bringing the alliance’s troop losses over the past two days to 14, officials said.
It has been the deadliest year for international forces in the nine-year Afghan conflict. Troop numbers have been ramped up to turn the screws on insurgents and casualties have mounted. The escalating toll has shaken the commitment of many NATO countries, with calls growing to start drawing down forces quickly.
A homemade bomb in western Afghanistan killed three service members Thursday, an alliance statement said without giving the nationalities of the dead or the specific location of the attack. American, Italian, Spanish and Lithuanian forces are deployed in the country’s west.
NATO later announced another four troops died in the south — three in insurgent attacks and another in a blast.
The alliance said a service member also died in a militant attack in the east. Poland’s Defense Ministry said one of its soldiers was killed and another wounded Thursday when a patrol was attacked by mortar fire in eastern Ghazni province.
On Wednesday, insurgents killed six NATO troops, including four who died in a single bomb blast in the south.
At least 42 NATO service members have been killed so far this month, and more than 2,000 have died since the 2001 U.S.-led invasion. Roadside bombs have become the weapon of choice for militants in countering ramped up NATO-Afghan operations.
NATO said Thursday two insurgent leaders were killed in a raid in Ghazni. Afghan and NATO forces took heavy small-arms and rocket-propelled grenade fire as they moved in on a compound in Rashidan district Wednesday, an alliance statement said.
Troops returned fire, killing Mohammad Ali and Mowlana Fatih Sahib, described by NATO as senior Taliban leaders. Several other insurgents were killed, it said.
The Taliban have accused NATO of inventing Taliban leaders and alleging they were killed or captured in a propaganda campaign to demoralize the insurgents.
Elsewhere Thursday, Taliban fighters ambushed a supply convoy in southern Kandahar city, wounding three civilian drivers in a hail of automatic weapon fire. The militants set three trucks ablaze before fleeing, driver Gul Janan said from his hospital bed.
Ten insurgents were killed in a clash with NATO and Afghan forces Wednesday in southern Helmand province’s Sangin district, a statement from the governor’s office said. Two other militants died when a roadside bomb they were planting detonated, it said.
In New York on Wednesday, the United Nations Security Council voted unanimously to extend U.N. authorization for the NATO-led force in Afghanistan for a year.
The nearly 150,000 international troops and 220,000 Afghan government security forces are still struggling to gain the upper hand against an estimated 30,000 insurgents.
The Taliban condemned the extension Thursday. The Security Council “should not contribute to the prolongation of war in Afghanistan by passing such decisions, but should work for ending the war and occupation in the country,” a statement said.
“The resolutions and decisions of the Security Council are the main cause behind the current nine-year long tragedy and the flames of war in Afghanistan,” the Taliban said.
Afghan President Hamid Karzai, meanwhile, pardoned Thursday a Pakistani child recruited to be a suicide bomber in Afghanistan. The boy was caught by Afghan security forces before he could carry out a terrorist attack, a statement released by Karzai’s office said.
It did not say where or when the child was detained, or who directed the boy and what his target was.
The child was handed over to his parents, and Karzai warned the family not to become “influenced by terrorist groups.”
Associated Press writers Mirwais Khan in Kandahar, and Edith M. Lederer at the United Nations contributed to this report.