ISLAMABAD - In one of the deadliest 24-hour spans in recent weeks for American forces, eight U.S. soldiers were killed in three separate attacks in southern Afghanistan Tuesday and yesterday, including a coordinated assault on an Afghan elite police headquarters in the city of Kandahar.
In the first attack late Tuesday, an insurgent rammed his explosives-filled car into the main gate of the Afghan police compound while other militants opened fire with automatic rifles and rocket launchers, NATO and Afghan authorities said. Three U.S. troops were killed, along with an Afghan police officer and five Afghan civilian workers.
NATO soldiers and Afghan police were able to keep insurgents from breaching the compound, the alliance said. Taliban spokesman Qari Yousef Ahmadi disputed that, claiming that insurgents managed to break into the compound and battle troops and police for 1 1/2 hours. Ahmadi said that the car bomber and another insurgent died, but three others escaped.
Yesterday, four more U.S. soldiers were killed by a roadside bomb in southern Afghanistan, a NATO spokeswoman said, and a fifth U.S. service member was killed during a small-arms attack.
Members of the elite police force, known as the Afghan National Civil Order Police, had recently been assigned to Kandahar to establish new checkpoints throughout the city, the birthplace of the Taliban movement and an area regarded as crucial in the U.S. military's strategy to bring an end to nine years of war in Afghanistan.
Thousands of troops are being deployed throughout Kandahar province in a bid to wrest control of the region from the Taliban and allow the start of social service and infrastructure projects that can boost Afghans' confidence in President Hamid Karzai's weak civilian government.
The Obama administration's deployment of 30,000 additional troops to Afghanistan this year and stepped-up military operations in the south have been matched by a higher toll on troops, with 2010 on track to be the deadliest year yet for both U.S. and international forces.
The latest violence raised to 238 the number of U.S. soldiers killed in Afghanistan in 2010 with the year slightly more than half over, compared with 317 for all of last year, according to the independent website icasualties.org. The death toll for international troops this year has risen to 369, compared with 521 last year.
Also in Kandahar, a pro-government cleric and member of a local people's council was gunned down in a mosque yesterday. Haji Khalifa, a member of the Pajawai district shura, or council, was shot dead as he prayed, said provincial shura member Agha Haji Lalai.
Nine Afghan civilians died in Marjah on Tuesday when their vehicle hit a roadside bomb, the Ministry of Interior said. Another homemade bomb killed two security guards traveling on a road in eastern Paktika province.