Monday, January 4, 2010

Four US soldiers killed in Afghan bomb blast: NATO

KABUL — Four US soldiers serving under the NATO force have been killed in a bomb blast in southern Afghanistan, days after seven CIA agents died in a suicide bombing, the alliance said Monday.

The four were serving with the International Security Assistance Force (ISAF), and were caught in a blast in a southern Taliban hotspot on Sunday. They were the first reported foreign military deaths in Afghanistan in 2010.

"Four ISAF service members from the United States died yesterday following an IED strike in southern Afghanistan," the ISAF statement said, referring to an improvised explosive device -- the Taliban weapon of choice.

An Afghan police official speaking on condition of anonymity told AFP that the four soldiers were killed in Panjwayi district in Kandahar province, a flashpoint of Taliban unrest.

Taliban spokesman Yousuf Ahmadi called from an unknown location and told AFP: "We claim responsibility for this attack." He gave the same location of the IED strikes as the police official.

Sunday's fatalities were the first reported foreign military deaths in Afghanistan this year, after 2009 saw 522 foreign troops killed in the country -- the deadliest year since the 2001 US-led ouster of the Taliban regime.

Most troop deaths are caused by IEDs, home-made bombs used by the Taliban and other Islamist insurgents who are said to have little other capability to fight the well-armed NATO and Afghan troops.

There are more than 110,000 international troops under both US and NATO command deployed in Afghanistan to curb an increasingly deadly insurgency being waged by the remnants of the Taliban.

Under Washington's new war plan, troop numbers are due to increase to about 150,000 this year in a bid to turn around the costly and unpopular war.

Since being ousted from power, the remnants of the Taliban have regrouped in the form of an Islamist insurgency trying to topple the Western-sponsored government in Kabul and regain power. Related article: Afghan parliament deliver blow to Karzai on cabinet

The rebels have constantly rejected calls for reconciliation by President Hamid Karzai.

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