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3 U.S. SOLDIERS KILLED IN AFGHANISTAN

By FISNIK ABRASHI, Associated Press Writer August 12, 2006

KABUL, Afghanistan - Militants attacked a U.S. patrol with rocket-propelled grenades, killing three Americans in Afghanistan's northeast, one of the wildest regions in the country, an official said Saturday. U.S. soldiers have been hunting extremists close to Osama bin Laden's terror network in the area near Pakistan.

U.S. troops used artillery to repel the attack in Nuristan province Friday, said Col. Tom Collins.

The clash in Nuristan province's Waygal district on Friday also wounded three U.S. soldiers and one civilian as American forces kept up their hunt for Taliban fighters and extremists close to Osama bin Laden's al-Qaida network that are holed up in remote mountains hugging the Pakistani border.

"We mourn their loss but their work continues," Collins said, referring to the three slain soldiers. "We will honor them by continuing our mission to pursue extremist wherever they are," he added. He did not say whether the militants suffered any casualties.

In recent weeks, U.S. forces have been pushing to their northernmost points along the mountainous Afghan-Pakistan border, including Nuristan, opening military bases in one of the wildest regions in the country.

Their mission is to crush militants loyal to the Hezb-e-Islami militant group of renegade Afghan warlord Gulbuddin Hekmatyar, the toppled Taliban regime and remnants of bin Laden's al-Qaida network.

Elsewhere, a British soldier in the NATO-led force was killed in a vehicle accident in the southern Helmand province on Saturday, a British Defense Ministry spokesman said.

The death brought to 19 the number of British forces killed since they deployed to Afghanistan in November 2001. More than 3,000 NATO-led British troops are hunting Taliban fighters throughout Helmand, one of Afghanistan's most violent provinces.

Also in Helmand, three Estonian soldiers were wounded when militants attacked their unit, apparently with anti-aircraft guns, the Estonian military said.

A helicopter transported two of the wounded soldiers from a camp of the Estonian contingent in Garmser district to a hospital at the nearby British military base, while one received first aid from members of his unit, the military said in a statement.

Separately, a highway police commander was killed by a blast on his way to work in eastern Lagman province, said Interior Ministry spokesman Yousef Stanezai.

Gunmen also killed the former deputy governor of southeastern Ghazni province, Abdul Hakim, outside his home late Friday, the provincial spokesman said.

Hakim's death followed a March ambush by militants that killed Ghazni's former governor and four others.

Also in Ghazni, a roadside bomb killed two civilians and injured another late Friday, the spokesman said.

An explosion also occurred outside a NATO base in Kabul early Saturday, but no one was injured, said Maj. Toby Jackman, spokesman for the NATO-led force. It was unclear what caused the blast.

Afghanistan has seen a surge in violence this year, particularly in the south, where rebel supporters of the toppled Taliban regime have stepped up attacks, as Afghan and NATO-led troops try to drive insurgents out of their safe havens.

The fighting has been the bloodiest since the Taliban were ousted in late 2001. In a two-month offensive in the south that ended at the start of August, the coalition claimed to have killed, wounded or captured, some 1,100 militants.

But, Tom Koenigs, the top U.N. official in Afghanistan, told the German news weekly Der Spiegel that the numbers do not reflect success.

"The Taliban fighters' reservoir is practically limitless," Koenigs told the magazine in an interview. "The movement will not be overcome by high casualty figures."

 

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