Afghan Fatalities Rise in Weekend Violence

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KABUL, Afghanistan -- Seven American soldiers were killed in fighting in eastern and southern Afghanistan over the weekend, after several weeks of declining death tolls among NATO forces.

In western Afghanistan, in Herat Province, the police found the bullet-riddled bodies of five missing campaign workers for a female candidate in next month's parliamentary elections, and another candidate for Parliament was killed, Afghan officials said Sunday.

The American servicemen were killed in five separate attacks, according to statements from the NATO-led International Security Assistance Force, known as ISAF. On Sunday, an American soldier was killed by a homemade bomb in southern Afghanistan, while another died as a result of an insurgent attack in southern Afghanistan, the NATO force said.

On Saturday, insurgent attacks in eastern Afghanistan killed two American soldiers in one episode and one in a separate instance, while two other Americans were killed by a bomb in southern Afghanistan.

NATO officials did not release any further details. The attacks brought the monthly death toll among coalition soldiers to 62 as of Aug. 29, compared with 88 in July, according to icasualties.org, which tracks coalition fatalities. In June, the bloodiest month of the nine-year war, 102 NATO soldiers were killed, according to icasualties.org figures.

NATO forces have nearly tripled in Afghanistan since the beginning of 2009, with a total of 123,000 service personnel now. About 100,000 of them are Americans.

In the Herat Province episode, the police said 10 campaign workers for Fawzia Gilani, a current member of Parliament who is running for re-election, had been abducted in the Adraskan District last week. Five of them were found shot to death on Sunday, said Col. Noor Khan Nikzad, a spokesman for the provincial police.

Elsewhere in Herat, in the Shindand District, Abdul Manan, a candidate for Parliament who was on his way to a local mosque, was shot to death by a gunman on a motorcycle, according to Colonel Nikzad.

In Baghlan Province in the north, a NATO investigation gave credence to reports from local officials that eight civilians were killed during a night raid last week.

ISAF said in a statement released Sunday that a "full assessment" of the attack early last week in Tala Wa Barfak District had determined that a helicopter fired into the wrong building, which "may have resulted in civilian casualties."

"We regret any possible civilian loss of life or injury," said Brig. Gen. Timothy M. Zadalis of the United States Air Force, who led the assessment team. "Our first objective is to protect the people of Afghanistan, and in this case we may have failed."

In another ISAF investigation, into the shooting deaths of two Spanish NATO military instructors and their interpreter, NATO officials said that the Afghan policeman who killed them, and who was shot to death in turn, had actually been a "terrorist." The findings contradicted initial reports that the shooting, outside the Spanish-run provincial reconstruction team base in the town of Qaleh Ye Now in Badghis Province, resulted from a dispute between the Spanish team and the Afghan policeman.

Both Afghan officials and the NATO statement said the policeman had previously been dismissed from the force for links to "terrorists."

The statement said, "Following his arrest, two local elders established the gunman as a credible member of society, and he was therefore allowed to go free and subsequently re-enlist with the A.N.P.," using the abbreviation for Afghan National Police.

After the shooting, an angry crowd of several hundred people gathered outside the base. The provincial police chief, Sayid Ahmed Samay, said many had been armed with pistols and grenade launchers and that 25 people were injured during crowd control efforts.


This article originally appeared in The New York Times .


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