2 NATO soldiers die near Kabul

Convoy hit while carrying supplies

Email|Print|Single Page| Text size + By Rahim Faiez
Associated Press / June 25, 2008

KABUL, Afghanistan - Militants torched a convoy carrying military supplies just south of the Afghan capital yesterday and killed two NATO troops in the turbulent south and east.

The attacks demonstrated the limited gains from the costly six-year effort to stabilize and bring security to Afghanistan, which is drawing in ever-larger numbers of NATO troops.

German defense officials said they plan to increase the number of their troops in Afghanistan by 1,000 this fall, pushing their contingent to 4,500. There are now around 60,000 foreign troops in the country.

The top US general in Afghanistan said that insurgent attacks have increased 40 percent this year over 2007 in the east of the country. In Washington, Major General Jeffrey J. Schloesser said there have been 40 deaths among uniformed and civilian coalition members in the east since the start of April.

Schloesser told reporters troops are tracking "a syndicate" of militants including Taliban, Al Qaeda, Pakistanis and Afghans who move back and forth over the Afghan-Pakistani border.

He said fighters are attacking civic centers and schools - killing teachers, students, road crews and others working to improve life in Afghanistan. Still, he said coalition forces are making good progress in training the Afghan army.

Afghan officials said an unknown number of men riding motorcycles and armed with guns and rockets attacked the convoy near Saydabad, a town in Wardak province about 40 miles from Kabul.

The local mayor, Fazel Karim Muslim, said more than 40 trucks carrying food, water, and fuel were damaged, most of them burned. The attackers fled when Afghan and foreign security forces, including aircraft, reached the scene, Muslim said.

He said one person in the convoy was killed, and three others wounded.

Associated Press Television News video showed blazing trucks standing three abreast on the Kabul-Kandahar highway, black smoke billowing into nearby mud-walled villages.

Bulldozers pushed the smoldering wrecks off the melting asphalt, toppling several of them sideways into the desert as a helicopter gunship circled overhead.

NATO confirmed the incident and said there were reports of casualties, but provided no details.

Convoys of trucks, driven by Afghans and usually escorted by private security guards, have been attacked regularly this year as violence has spiraled across the south and east.

Nearly 2,000 people have died in insurgency-related violence this year. They include more than 100 foreign troops, many of them killed by mines and bombs detonated next to convoys.

NATO said one of the two soldiers who died yesterday fell when a mine blast hit a patrol in Khogyani, a district of the eastern province of Nangarhar. Three soldiers were wounded, it said.

The other died in the south during an engagement with insurgents in Sangin district of Helmand province.

Although NATO did not release nationalities of the victims, the British Defense Ministry said a Parachute Regiment soldier was killed in the Upper Sangin Valley of Helmand province during a firefight yesterday with the Taliban. The death brought Britain's death toll in Afghanistan to 107 since 2001.

Elsewhere, warplanes attacked militants withdrawing from a clash with police in the mountains of eastern Afghanistan. Ismatullah Alizai, police chief of Paktia province, said 15 militants died.

NATO said an unmanned drone identified the retreating militants shortly after midnight and that "close air support was used to engage and kill" them.

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