September 23, 2004 in Nation/World

Another U.S. soldier dies in Afghanistan

Stephen Graham Associated Press

KABUL, Afghanistan – An attack on a patrol killed an American soldier, the third U.S. fatality this week in Afghanistan, the military said Wednesday, amid a flurry of attacks that wounded over a dozen Americans in the run-up to the Oct. 9 presidential election.

Meanwhile, a group of 11 prisoners, including a former Taliban commander, arrived home from the U.S. jail at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba. Another 10 detainees were transferred from Afghanistan to the U.S. naval base, the Pentagon said.

The soldier died in an attack on a security patrol on Monday in Khost province, said Maj. Scott Nelson, a military spokesman.

The military had already announced the death of two U.S. troops Monday in another incident – an attack in neighboring Paktika province.

The two were killed by mortar fire when a “large force of anti-coalition militants” attacked a security patrol in Paktika. Six Afghan soldiers were wounded.

The U.S.-led force called in A-10 ground-attack aircraft and a B-1 bomber, which dropped two 500-pound bombs on the attackers. At least nine militants were killed, Nelson said.

U.S.-led troops clashed with militants in eight separate locations Monday, he said. A total of 14 Americans were injured and one Afghan soldier was listed as missing, he said.

Two Americans wounded by a roadside bomb were being taken to Germany for treatment for “non-life-threatening” injuries, Nelson said. He didn’t give details of the other injuries.

More than 900 people have died in political violence across Afghanistan this year, underlining the country’s continued instability more than three years after the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks triggered a U.S. campaign to oust the Taliban and their al Qaeda allies.

Since then, Taliban holdouts and anti-government factions have sustained an insurgency across the south and east, despite the presence of up to 20,000 U.S.-led troops and an offer of amnesty by President Hamid Karzai to all but a few dozen leaders.

Karzai has released hundreds of Taliban prisoners from Afghan jails ahead of the election, and on Wednesday officials presented 11 Afghans freed from the U.S. prison in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba.

“The prisoners have shown their strong support for the peace-building and reconstruction process of the country and have intended to take active part in it,” Karzai’s office said.

A U.S. military spokesman said the prisoners were released at the Afghan government’s request.

In a statement confirming the releases, the Pentagon said “the decision to transfer or release a detainee is based on many factors, including whether the detainee is of further intelligence value to the United States and whether the detainee is believed to pose a threat to the United States if released.”

The released prisoners included Naim Kuchi, a leader of Afghanistan’s nomadic Kuchi tribe, who was detained near Kabul by U.S. forces in January 2003.

© Copyright 2004 Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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