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Archive for June 21st, 2008

A suicide attack on a military convoy killed a US-led soldier and 11 Afghans in southern Afghanistan today, a day after a huge operation to drive Taliban rebels from a key stronghold.The convoy was driving through a crowded bazaar in the troubled province of Helmand when it was hit by small-arms fire and then an insurgent detonated explosives strapped to his body, officials said.

Separately, two US-led coalition troops were killed Thursday in an operation against insurgents in Helmand, the country’s main opium growing area and a tough bastion of the hardline Taliban movement.

There was no immediate claim of responsibility for either incident, but the Taliban had vowed to launch suicide attacks to avenge this week’s big offensive by NATO and Afghan troops in the neighbouring region of Kandahar.

Helmand police chief Mohammad Hussain Andiwal said 10 Afghan civilians were killed and four were injured in the suicide blast and that it was aimed at NATO security forces, not the separate US-led coalition.

“The attacker walked up to a NATO convoy patrolling in a market in Girishk district and detonated explosives strapped to his body,” the police chief told AFP.

The US-led coalition later said in a statement that “a coalition servicemember and a local national were killed this morning in Helmand province when their convoy was struck by a suicide bomber and small-arms fire.”The Afghan national was an interpreter, said the coalition, which did not mention civilian casualties.

The police chief blamed the attack on “œenemies of Afghanistan” — a term frequently used by Afghan officials to refer to the Taliban and their Al-Qaeda allies.

The Taliban, who were ousted from government by US-led forces in late 2001 for failing to hand over Osama bin Laden following the 9/11 attacks, have claimed almost all similar attacks in the past.

The rebels have stepped up an insurgency in the last two years, causing thousands of civilian casualties as well as killing foreign and Afghan troops trying to extend the writ of President Hamid Karzai’s fragile government.

The government has been on the back foot since a major jail break a week ago in Kandahar, the birthplace of the Taliban regime, in which hundreds of insurgents escaped. Taliban militants then streamed into villages in the Arghandab district of Kandahar province early this week, prompting the joint NATO and Afghan operation involving more than 1,000 troops.

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