Taliban attack road crew in south Afghanistan; US service member dies in bomb blast

KABUL, Afghanistan (AP) — Taliban fighters attacked a road construction crew Thursday in southern Afghanistan and several people were killed and wounded, officials and witnesses said.

Also Thursday, the U.S. command said an American service member was killed the day before in fighting in the south, where Afghan and international forces were pushing into areas long held by Taliban insurgents. The death brought to at least 17 the number of U.S. troops killed in Afghanistan this month. Sixty-six American troops died in July — the deadliest month for U.S. forces in the nearly 9-year-old war.

The attack on the road crew occurred in the Sangin district of Helmand province, according to a company employee, Salam Khan Durrani. He said several people had been killed or wounded but he had no precise figures because fighting was still raging.

Provincial spokesman Dawood Ahmadi said the crew and its security guards called for help from Afghan security forces but he had no other details.

The crew was working on the main road from Sangin to the provincial capital Lashkar Gah. Sangin has been the scene of bloody fighting between the Taliban and coalition forces.

In neighboring Kandahar province, eight NATO service members were injured when their helicopter made a hard landing during a joint Afghan and coalition operation. According to initial reports, the aircraft was not taking enemy fire. An investigation is under way.

In the east, two Afghan civilians were killed and 14 wounded Thursday when a fuel truck exploded in the Bati Kot district of Nangarhar province, the coalition said. The blast also destroyed three civilian vehicles and caused damage to shops nearby. The incident was being investigated, but initial reports indicated an explosive device was the cause, NATO said.

Also, a joint Afghan and NATO force killed 12 insurgents Wednesday in Puli Alam district of Logar province, the coalition said. Among those killed was Qari Muir, who had held several Taliban positions, including deputy shadow governor, military commander and the insurgent group's intelligence chief for Logar, NATO said.

The insurgents were observed preparing an attack on coalition forces and were killed in airstrikes, the coalition said. A weapons cache, which included rockets, mines, ammunition and bomb-making equipment also was destroyed.

Also in eastern Afghanistan, coalition and Afghan forces killed three insurgents who were members of the fundamentalist Islamic group Jamaat-ud-Dawa, NATO said. Jamaat-ud-Dawa is a Pakistan-based group that is believed to be a front for Lashkar-e-Taiba, which India blames for the 2009 terror attacks in Mumbai that killed 166 people.

It was unclear whether the dead were Pakistanis or from an Afghan wing.

The insurgents, who were killed in fighting in Pech district of Kunar province, were members of a network linked to two rocket-propelled grenade attacks that killed two U.S. service members and wounded several others, plus various other attacks on Afghan and coalition forces.

NATO also reported that technical problems forced one of its unmanned aerial vehicles to make an emergency landing Wednesday in Kunduz province. The vehicle is a lightweight, medium-range reconnaissance and surveillance aircraft that is not armed.


Khan reported from Kandahar.