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4 U.S. Soldiers Are Killed As Afghan Violence Surges
On Independence Day, Karzai Stresses Education

By Fisnik Abrashi
Associated Press
Sunday, August 20, 2006

KABUL, Insurgents killed four U.S. soldiers and wounded six others in clashes Saturday during an upsurge in violence across the country. Two Afghan soldiers also were killed.

Three U.S. soldiers were killed and three were wounded during operations in the Pech district of the eastern province of Konar, said Col. Tom Collins, a U.S. military spokesman. U.S. troops in that area are hunting for Taliban fighters and insurgents linked to Osama bin Laden's al-Qaeda network in remote mountains hugging the Pakistani border.

In the southern province of Uruzgan, one U.S. soldier and two Afghan soldiers were killed and three Americans were wounded in a four-hour clash with more than 100 insurgents, according to a NATO statement.

The violence occurred as thousands gathered to mark Afghanistan's independence from British rule in 1919, following the third Anglo-Afghan war. Repeated wars and conflicts have devastated the country of 26 million people in the last three decades.

In Kabul, Afghan soldiers with M-16 assault rifles paraded with police officers, sportsmen and horsemen in a stadium that was used regularly for public executions during the Taliban's rule.

President Hamid Karzai told thousands attending a celebration that education was key to protecting the country's independence at a time when guerrillas are trying to undermine his authority.

"Our history proves our bravery," Karzai said. "The only thing we need to keep our independence is education."

Insurgents have targeted schools, burning 144 to the ground over the past year and forcing 200 others to close following threats against teachers and students, according to officials. More than 200,000 children have been unable to continue their education as a result.

The insurgents say that educating girls is against Islam and oppose government-funded schools for boys because they teach secular subjects besides religion. Targeting schools is also considered a tactic to shake the authority of the U.S.-backed government.

On Friday, a local police commander was killed when his vehicle hit a freshly planted mine in the Sori district of the southern province of Zabol, said Noor Mohammad Paktin, the provincial police chief.

Separately, suspected Taliban insurgents wounded Mrich Agha, a spiritual leader in Kandahar province, also in the south, the governor's spokesman said. Agha's driver was killed in the ambush, he said.

Afghanistan's southern provinces are bearing the brunt of the country's worst bout of violence since the fall of the Taliban, a radical Islamic militia, in the U.S.-led invasion in late 2001, as insurgents try to undermine Karzai and his government.

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