THIS STORY HAS BEEN FORMATTED FOR EASY PRINTING

Afghan roadside bombing kills 2 US service members

By Rahim Faiez
Associated Press / January 24, 2010

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KABUL, Afghanistan - A roadside bomb killed two US service members in southern Afghanistan yesterday as the country’s top NATO commander acknowledged an increased risk to foreign troops will accompany an influx of reinforcements aimed at routing the Taliban.

The deaths brought to at least 22 the number of American service members killed this month - compared with 14 for January last year. A mild winter has brought no respite to the fighting, which traditionally drops off during the cold months.

The south is the Taliban heartland and is expected to be a major focus of fighting as the US and NATO allies send 37,000 additional troops.

“The end state of the mission is to protect the population and isolate the insurgency in a way where it doesn’t constitute a threat to the Afghan government,’’ General Stanley McChrystal, the top US and NATO commander in Afghanistan, said Friday during a visit to the western command. “This will not happen in a short period or in an easy way. It’s realistic to expect an increase of risk to coalition forces.’’

Also yesterday, militants kidnapped a district police chief, Jamtullah Khan, and two other officers on a nighttime foot patrol near the eastern border with Pakistan - the latest in a series of attacks against Afghan officials.

General Khalilullah Zaiyie said reinforcements had been sent to help with a search for the three men, who were seized in the Shigal district of Kunar Province just after 1 a.m.

Nobody has claimed responsibility for the kidnapping, but Zaiyie blamed Taliban militants who are active in the area.

It occurred a day after the governor of Wardak province escaped an assassination attempt when his convoy struck a roadside bomb, killing four Afghan soldiers and wounding another. Governor Halim Fidai, who was unharmed, was on his way to inspect a school after meeting with elders in Jagatu district.

Two armed men, including a local Taliban commander, were arrested as they tried to flee the scene, according to the governor’s spokesman.

In other violence, militants fired on police yesterday, sparking a gunbattle in the middle of a protest over the deaths of four men in a NATO-Afghan raid, officials said. At least two people were wounded in the fighting in the Qara Bagh district of Ghazni province.