3 U.S. Soldiers Die in Afghan Attack

By Fisnik Abrashi
Associated Press
Sunday, August 13, 2006

KABUL, Afghanistan, Aug. 12 -- Three U.S. soldiers were killed and three wounded in a firefight in northeastern Afghanistan after insurgents attacked an American patrol with rocket-propelled grenades and small-arms fire, a military spokesman said Saturday.

U.S. troops used artillery to repel the attack in Nurestan province Friday, and helicopters rushed the wounded soldiers to medical care, said Col. Tom Collins. A civilian was also injured.

U.S. forces in recent weeks have been pushing to their northernmost points along the mountainous border between Afghanistan and Pakistan, including Nurestan, opening military bases in one of the wildest regions in the country.

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

In other violence, gunmen killed a former deputy governor outside his home in a restive southern province Friday night, five months after his former boss was assassinated in an ambush.

Abdul Hakim was gunned down when he left his house, said Abdul Ali Fakory, a spokesman for the governor of the southeastern Ghazni province. In March, militants ambushed former governor Taj Mohammed Qari Baba near his home, killing him and four others.

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

The fighting has been the bloodiest since the Taliban, a radical Islamic movement, was ousted in late 2001. In a two-month offensive in the south that ended at the start of August, the coalition said it had killed, wounded or captured about 1,100 insurgents.

Tom Koenigs, the top U.N. official in Afghanistan, told the German newsweekly 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."

The worsening security situation contributed to a fourfold rise in polio cases this year, almost entirely in the insurgency-racked south, Afghanistan's Health Ministry said Saturday.

Afghanistan has had 24 cases so far this year, all but one in the south, compared with nine cases in 2005, all in the south, said Shukrullah Wahidi, who oversees the ministry's polio program.

He cited the region's rising violence, difficulty in establishing health services and poor communication with community leaders.

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