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Six NATO troops killed in Afghanistan

By Ernesto Londono
Washington Post Staff Writer
Monday, February 28, 2011; 7:46 PM

KABUL - Six NATO troops were killed in attacks across Afghanistan on Monday, one of the deadliest days for the international force this winter, military officials said.

Four came under attack in eastern Afghanistan, a region that has become increasingly volatile since the U.S. military made a concerted effort last year to dislodge Taliban fighters from strongholds in the south.

Provinces in the east are strategically vital for the Taliban and other insurgent groups with sanctuaries in largely lawless areas across the border in Pakistan.

The attacks come as NATO is shifting troops from the Pech Valley, a mountainous area in eastern Afghanistan that military officials once called a vital battleground, to have a more robust presence along routes that lead to the border.

"Afghan security forces are able to take responsibility of the Pech Valley," NATO spokesman Gen. Josef Blotz told reporters during a news conference Monday. "This is testimony to our confidence."

One of the attacks in the east involved a homemade bomb that killed two soldiers. A third was killed by a separate bomb, military officials said. The fourth was killed in an unspecified "insurgent attack."

A fifth soldier was killed in southern Afghanistan. The contingents that operate in southern and eastern Afghanistan are made up mostly of U.S. troops.

Military officials did not specify the nationalities of five of the service members killed Monday, and they did not provide further details about the location of the attacks.

The Italian Defense Ministry said one of its lieutenants was killed Monday near Shindand, a city in Herat province, in the west.

Lt. Massimo Ranzani was killed when an improvised bomb detonated as he and his men were on patrol with Afghan forces, the Defense Ministry said in a statement. Four soldiers, who, like their leader, belonged to the same unit, were "seriously injured."

The attacks come as Afghan officials express alarm over the number of civilians killed this year. More than 200 Afghans were killed in attacks and military operations over two weeks in February. Afghan officials called it the deadliest stretch for civilians since the war began.

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