updated 3/12/2006 1:32:19 PM ET 2006-03-12T18:32:19

A roadside bomb exploded next to a passing U.S. armored vehicle Sunday in eastern Afghanistan, killing four American soldiers, the U.S. military said.

The armored vehicle was hit by an improvised explosive in the Pech Valley in Kunar province, where the Americans were patrolling to keep a road open to civilian and military traffic, the military said in a statement.

Earlier, Kunar Gov. Asadullah Wafa said a remote-controlled mine exploded, hitting a convoy of American troops on patrol in the Watapur area of the province.

It was the deadliest attack on U.S. forces in a month. On Feb. 13, a roadside bomb killed four American soldiers traveling in an armored vehicle in central Uruzgan province.

A U.S. military spokesman, Col. Jim Yonts, accused militants of launching “cowardly” attacks by placing bombs and detonating them from a distance.

Wafa said the explosion occurred at 4:15 p.m. as a convoy of six American vehicles was passing.

No one had been arrested and Afghan police cordoned off the area where the attack took place, Wafa said.

Sunday’s bombing raised the death toll of U.S. military personnel in the region to 220 since a U.S.-led offensive toppled the Taliban regime in Afghanistan in late 2001.

Militant supporters of the former Taliban regime have stepped up attacks in Afghanistan over the past year. In 2005, about 1,600 people were killed in violence linked to the insurgency, the most since 2001.

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