Wave of violence kills 50 in Afghanistan

5 US troops die in roadside attacks

A defaced election poster of Afghan President Hamid Karzai on a Kabul street. He seemed to hold onto his lead in contested elections yesterday as the Taliban insurgency spread. A defaced election poster of Afghan President Hamid Karzai on a Kabul street. He seemed to hold onto his lead in contested elections yesterday as the Taliban insurgency spread. (Musadeq Sadeq/ Associated Press)
By Rahim Faiez
Associated Press / September 13, 2009

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KABUL, Afghanistan - About 50 civilians, security forces, and militants were killed in a wave of violence across Afghanistan, including a bomb that left 14 Afghan travelers dead in one of the country’s most dangerous regions. Five American soldiers died in two attacks using roadside bombs.

The attacks Friday and yesterday reached a broad swath of the country, demonstrating the spread of the Taliban insurgency, which had been largely confined to the country’s south and east in the years after the 2001 US invasion. Half of those killed in the most recent attacks were civilians, who often find themselves caught in the grinding war between the Taliban and US and NATO forces.

Bombs caused most of the casualties - including homemade blasts in the former Taliban stronghold of Kandahar and a neighboring province that together killed 20 civilians.

A roadside bomb and gunfire attack in western Afghanistan killed three Americans, while another roadside bomb killed two Americans in the east, said Chief Petty Officer Brian Naranjo, a spokesman for the US military command in Kabul. No other details were available.

Taliban militants also staged suicide attacks - and came under attack themselves.

Coalition and Afghan forces yesterday killed 11 militants during an overnight raid in northern Kunduz province, said Abdul Razaq Yaqoubi, the provincial police chief.

The operation targeted Taliban fighters who helped foreign fighters and suicide bombers infiltrate the region, said Captain Elizabeth Mathias, a US military spokeswoman.

In a separate development, the Afghan president, Hamid Karzai, hung onto his 54 percent-to-28 percent lead over his closest rival early today in the presidential contest as the vote count ground on in the face of fraud allegations.

Despite the lopsided margin, the UN mission warned there were “no winners’’ yet from last month’s election, which has come down to the incumbent and former Foreign Minister Abdullah Abduallah.

Karzai’s lead could still be cut to below 50 percent, depending on the outcome of investigations by a UN-backed group into hundreds of fraud allegations. If that happens, Karzai will face Abdullah in a runoff.

Afghanistan’s Independent Election Commission has now released results from 93 percent of polling stations. Five percent of votes have not been counted, while the rest have been quarantined for suspected fraud.

In Kabul yesterday, an American service member and an Afghan police officer got into an argument because the American was drinking water in front of the Afghan police, who are not eating or drinking during the day because of the Muslim fasting month of Ramadan, said the district chief, Abdul Baqi Zemari.

The police officer shot the American and seriously wounded him, while other American troops responded and seriously wounded the police officer, Zemari said.

A US military spokesman, confirmed an incident between Afghan police officers and a US police mentoring team.