KABUL, Afghanistan – Militants mounted a series of attacks near Afghanistan’s lawless border with Pakistan, killing a U.S. soldier and at least four Afghan police officers, while three Afghan civilians were wounded by gunfire following the bombing of an American patrol.
The violence this week follows the killing of dozens of rebels in recent battles with U.S. forces and casts doubt on American assertions that a 3-year-old Taliban-led insurgency is running out of steam.
The soldier was slain when his unit was ambushed Tuesday while on patrol near Deh Rawood, 280 miles southwest of the capital, Kabul. He was evacuated to a nearby base but pronounced dead by doctors.
The soldier’s name was not released until his relatives can be notified. His remains were sent to the U.S. air base in the southern city of Kandahar, where a memorial service was held Wednesday, the military said in a statement.
Further south, Taliban militants ambushed a convoy Tuesday carrying the police chief of the Dishu district of Helmand province, killing four officers and abducting two others, Mayor Mohammed Rahim told the Associated Press. The police chief was unhurt.
Police destroyed one of the assailants’ cars with rockets but failed to prevent their escape in other vehicles. Rahim said it was unclear if any of the attackers, who he asserted were Taliban guerrillas, were hurt.
Meanwhile, a bomb exploded near U.S. military vehicles traveling through Khogyani district of Nangarhar province Tuesday, Faizan ul-Haq, a provincial government spokesman, told the AP.
No one was hurt in the explosion, but three civilians were injured when U.S. soldiers shaken by the bombing opened fire toward an approaching bus, said ul-Haq, calling the incident a “misunderstanding.”
He said U.S. troops took the three injured passengers, two men and one woman, for treatment.
A witness, Delsoz Khogyani, said the incident happened in a village called Karem Khel.
“It’s a busy road and the coach was coming from Jalalabad with 18 people on board and the Americans fired their guns at it,” Khogyani, a farmer, said by telephone.
Lt. Cindy Moore, a U.S. military spokeswoman, said the passengers were caught in the crossfire between troops and militants in another car. It was unclear who fired the shots that hit them. She said two roadside bombs had detonated and that a third was defused.
Moore said the wounded civilians were taken to the main U.S. base at Bagram, north of the capital. One was released after treatment and the other two were out of danger.
In Washington, a defense official, speaking on the condition of anonymity, said a small number of U.S. troops had conducted two exercises with their Pakistani counterparts in Pakistan during the last two months. The exercises were called “Inspired Gambit” and “Inspired Venture.”
The death of the American soldier brings to 140 the number of U.S. troops killed in and around Afghanistan since the start of the U.S. invasion in late 2001.