KABUL, Afghanistan – Five NATO service members were killed Thursday in southern Afghanistan, the scene of heavy fighting as troops push into areas long controlled by the Taliban, the coalition said.
Three died when a homemade bomb exploded and two were killed separately — one following an insurgent attack and another in an explosion.
No other details or the nationalities of the troops was immediately disclosed.
Three Afghan civilians also died in the south in a suicide attack on a NATO convoy, a local official said. Nine other civilians were wounded in the bombing, which occurred near the airport in Kandahar, a Taliban stronghold. The suicide attacker detonated explosives while in his vehicle, causing the casualties, said Zulmai Ayubi, a spokesman for the Kandahar governor.
A NATO spokesman confirmed one Afghan death and said the blast caused substantial damage to buildings in the immediate area and left a significant crater in the highway. NATO said the wounded civilians were medically evacuated. One coalition vehicle was damaged in the attack, he said. The Taliban claimed responsibility.
NATO also confirmed Thursday that an assessment team had determined that four Afghan civilians were killed and three were wounded during a coalition operation Wednesday in Andar district of Ghazni province in the east. The coalition said the civilians were killed when Afghan and international troops came under fire from about eight insurgents.
A helicopter fired to protect the troops, but accidentally struck a group of unarmed civilians, NATO said. The coalition expressed its regret over the deaths of the civilians. The wounded were treated at a NATO medical facility.
Meanwhile, evidence of fraud in the country's recent parliamentary vote continued to mount as the election commission said it had invalidated some of the ballots cast in 10 provinces and ordered partial re-counts in others.
In the slow tally of results from Afghanistan's Sept. 18 parliamentary poll, election officials said they have now counted at least partial results in 20 of the country's 34 provinces. Along with the voting came myriad accusations of fraud and misconduct ranging from indelible ink that washed off voters' fingers — thereby allowing them to vote twice — to poll workers who ordered people to vote for certain candidates and faked voter cards.
Commission chairman Fazel Ahmad Manawi said ballots from 39 polling sites across 10 provinces had been invalidated, and ordered recounts of certain sites in another 12 provinces. The commission had previously announced re-counts in seven provinces. It was not clear how many ballots were included in either the voided ballots or the re-counts.
The vote was the first since a presidential election last year that was nearly derailed by widespread ballot-box stuffing and tally manipulation. That poll led many Western powers to question whether they should be supporting the administration of President Hamid Karzai with military forces and funds.
This year's elections have about 2,500 candidates vying for 249 parliamentary seats. A government anti-fraud elections watchdog has received more than 3,500 complaints of cheating or misconduct — about 57 percent serious enough that they could affect the outcome of the vote.
Full preliminary results are expected around Oct. 9 and final results at the end of the month, following fraud investigations.
Associated Press writer Eric Talmadge in Kabul contributed to this report.