Video: Afghanistan violence reaches record levels

  1. Closed captioning of: Afghanistan violence reaches record levels

    >>> the show. "nightly news" begins now.

    >>> good evening. i'm ann curry , in for brian williams , who is in afghanistan tonight, where eight more american service members were killed today, making this the deadliest month for u.s. troops in afghanistan in the entire war. brian now has more on this.

    >> reporter: ann, good evening, from eastern afghanistan . we're at a u.s. army special forces camp, which by the way will serve as our home here for the night. we were here in the dining hall for a poignant moment earlier this evening when a lot of people in uniform looked up at the television and learned officially that october had indeed become the deadliest month of this eight-year war. and to begin our coverage here tonight from here, our own chief foreign correspondent richard engel , who is here with us on the trip and is to our west in kabul tonight. richard, good evening.

    >> good evening, brian . most of the violence today was centered to the south of where we both are tonight with a familiar tactic -- ieds . after weeks of escalation here, violence has now reached record levels. it was daylight early today when militants attacked two american patrols with powerful ieds in the taliban 's heartland, southern afghanistan . the deadliest was what the military calls a complex attack, a combination of a roadside bomb followed by a guerrilla ambush. seven americans were killed in that attack. another serviceman died in a separate roadside bombing . today's losses bring the american death toll in october to at least 55, the highest in a single month since the war began. the previous high had been 51, a grim milestone reached just in august. by comparison, the death toll last october was 16. why the increase? the taliban have been gaining momentum, especially since failed elections this summer. there are more u.s. troops to attack and the militants are using bigger bombs. u.s. military officials tell nbc news that over the past several months the taliban have developed more sophisticated, more powerful ieds that can penetrate american vehicles armored to fight in the mostly urban war in iraq .

    >> we've got a year of hard fighting ahead of us in an attempt to roll back an emboldened taliban fueled by drug money and armed with very sophisticated rockets, mortars and ieds .

    >> reporter: the attacks came as the military families and dea began to release names and photographs of some of the 14 americans killed in 2 helicopter crashes monday. the u.s. military believes both were accidents. the u.s. military also announced today that it recovered the remains of three civilian pilots killed in another crash earlier this month. brian ?

    >> richard engel to our west in kabul tonight. richard, thanks.

    >>> arriving back in this region

updated 10/27/2009 2:12:03 PM ET 2009-10-27T18:12:03

Eight American troops were killed in two separate bomb attacks Tuesday in southern Afghanistan, making October the deadliest month of the war for U.S. forces since the 2001 invasion to oust the Taliban.

In one of the insurgent assaults, seven Americans were killed while patrolling in armored vehicles, U.S. forces spokesman Lt. Col. Todd Vician said. He said an Afghan civilian died in the same attack. The eighth American was killed in a separate bombing elsewhere in the south, also while patrolling in a military vehicle, he said.

The military issued a statement saying the deaths occurred during "multiple, complex" bomb strikes. It said several troops were wounded and evacuated to a nearby medical facility, but gave no other details.

Capt. Adam Weece, a spokesman for American forces in the south, said both attacks occurred in Kandahar province. In Washington, a U.S. defense official said at least one was followed by an intense firefight with insurgents who attacked after an initial bomb went off. The official spoke on condition of anonymity because he wasn't authorized to release the information.

The deaths bring to 55 the total number of American troops killed in October in Afghanistan. The previous high was in August, when 51 U.S. soldiers died and the troubled nation held the first round of its presidential elections amid a wave of Taliban insurgent attacks.

The deadliest month of the Iraq conflict for U.S. forces was November 2004, when 137 Americans were killed during the assault to clear insurgents from the city of Fallujah.

"A loss like this is extremely difficult for the families as well as for those who served alongside these brave service members," said Navy Capt. Jane Campbell, a military spokeswoman.  "Our thoughts and prayers are with the families and friends who mourn their loss."

Helicopter crashes
The loss of life followed one of the worst days of the war for U.S. forces in Afghanistan since they launched air strikes in 2001 to oust the Taliban from power .

Key dates: The U.S. war in AfghanistanOn Monday, a U.S. military helicopter crashed returning from the scene of a firefight with suspected Taliban drug traffickers in western Afghanistan, killing 10 Americans including three DEA agents. In a separate crash the same day, four more U.S. troops were killed when two helicopters collided over southern Afghanistan.

U.S. military officials insisted neither crash was the result of hostile fire, although the Taliban claimed they shot down a U.S. helicopter in the western province of Badghis. The U.S. did not say where in western Afghanistan its helicopter went down, and no other aircraft were reported missing.

Those casualties marked the Drug Enforcement Administration's first deaths since it began operations here in 2005. Afghanistan is the world's largest producer of opium — the raw ingredient in heroin — and the illicit drug trade is a major source of funding for insurgent groups.

Meanwhile, NATO-led forces have recovered the remains of three American military contractors from the wreckage of a U.S. Army reconnaissance plane that crashed two weeks ago in northeastern Afghanistan, the military said Tuesday.

The Army C-12 Huron twin-engine turboprop had been missing since it crashed Oct. 13 while on a routine mission in Nuristan province, a Taliban insurgent stronghold. The plane went down less than two weeks after insurgents overran a coalition outpost the same province, killing eight American troops in one of the war's deadliest battles for the U.S.

NATO said in a statement that the crash is "under investigation, though hostile action is not believed to be the cause of the crash."

Thomas Casey, a spokesman for Lockheed Martin Corp., confirmed that the three dead men — a pilot, co-pilot and technician — were American citizens working for Lockheed Martin subcontractors.

They were employed under a Lockheed Martin contract for "counter-narcoterrorism" operations, Casey said.

U.S. forces spokesman Col. Wayne Shanks said the crew were the only ones aboard when the craft went down without giving off any distress signals.

© 2013 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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