French and U.S. Soldiers Die in Afghan Violence

Associated Press
Sunday, May 21, 2006

KANDAHAR, Afghanistan, May 20 -- Taliban fighters ambushed an Afghan army convoy Saturday, setting off a gun battle that resulted in the deaths of four soldiers and 15 insurgents. Clashes elsewhere killed 15 others, including two French soldiers and a U.S. soldier.

Six American soldiers were wounded just days after a 24-hour surge of violence across Afghanistan killed about 120 people. The fighting was some of the heaviest since the ouster of the Taliban by U.S.-led forces in late 2001.

The fiercest clashes erupted late Friday in Helmand province, the country's main opium-producing region. Six insurgents, an Afghan soldier and one civilian were killed, said Gen. Rehmatullah Raufi, head of the Afghan military's southern region.

After the convoy attack Saturday, hundreds of reinforcements were deployed to the area and the rebels fled on motorbikes and foot, an Afghan military official said on condition of anonymity. Gen. Zahir Azimi, a Defense Ministry spokesman, confirmed that four Afghan soldiers had been killed.

Rebels ambushed another army convoy in Zabol province Saturday, and four fighters were killed as the troops returned fire, Raufi said.

In the western city of Herat, meanwhile, an explosion ripped through a vehicle and wounded Amanullah Khan, a former warlord, said Gulam Sarwar Haydari, the city's deputy police chief. It was not immediately clear what caused the blast.

An American soldier was killed in southern Uruzgan province Friday morning when U.S. forces encountered enemy fighters during a patrol. The six wounded soldiers were in stable condition, said Lt. Tamara Lawrence, a U.S. military spokeswoman.

In the past year Uruzgan has seen some of the heaviest fighting in Afghanistan.

Two French troops were killed Saturday while fighting Taliban rebels in the Kandahar region, the French Defense Ministry said. France has had 200 special forces personnel in southeast Afghanistan since 2003, as part of a U.S. command fighting the Taliban.

At least 235 U.S. military personnel have died in Afghanistan, Pakistan and Uzbekistan since the invasion of Afghanistan in late 2001, according to the Pentagon.

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