Nine NATO troops killed in helicopter crash, spate of attacks in Afghanistan

By Ernesto Londoño
Washington Post Foreign Service
Tuesday, June 22, 2010

KABUL -- Nine NATO troops were killed Monday in a helicopter crash and a spate of attacks in southern and eastern Afghanistan, putting June on pace to become the deadliest month for the U.S.-led international force in the nearly nine-year war.

At least 62 NATO service members, including 41 Americans, have been killed this month in Afghanistan -- an average of nearly three a day. Also on Monday, Afghan officials said a deputy district governor was slain in Wardak province, the latest blow for the U.S. effort to boost local governance in Taliban strongholds.

The surge in NATO casualties comes as the U.S. military is deploying an additional 30,000 troops to Taliban strongholds in an effort to secure them and have the Afghan government assume control.

"We're getting into places where we haven't been," Lt. Gen. David M. Rodriguez, the No. 2 U.S. commander in Afghanistan, said in an interview. Taliban insurgents are "going to continue to fight back for those areas so they don't lose their influence or the significant amount of drug money and resources," he added.

Monday's troop fatalities included three Australian commandos and an American service member aboard a helicopter that crashed in northern Kandahar province, officials said. NATO officials said there was no evidence of "enemy involvement" in the crash. A Taliban spokesman asserted that the group shot down the aircraft, according to the Associated Press.

Four of the other troops killed Monday were American. The nationality of the remaining service member was not immediately disclosed. Two of the troops were killed in a roadside bombing in eastern Afghanistan. Three were killed in separate roadside bombings and a shooting in southern Afghanistan, military officials said.

Monday's crash marked the deadliest incident for Australian troops since the war began. The nation, which has about 1,500 troops in Afghanistan, has lost 16 service members, including two killed in a roadside bombing earlier this month. Seven Australian soldiers were wounded in Monday's crash, the officials said, some gravely.

In addition to stepping up attacks against NATO troops, the Taliban has in recent months assassinated several local government officials.

A deputy district governor in the Sayed Abad district of Wardak province was the latest victim. Afghan officials said the 55-year-old official, Atiquillah, who went by one name, was slain over the weekend after having been kidnapped last week. His body was discovered near a village Sunday night. Some Afghan officials said he was beheaded; others said his body was riddled with bullets.

Special correspondent Javed Hamdard contributed to this report.

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