updated 4/26/2004 6:06:41 AM ET 2004-04-26T10:06:41

Suspected insurgents ambushed an American military convoy on a road in southern Afghanistan, setting off an explosion that wounded three Marines — one of them seriously, the U.S. military said Monday.

The attack occurred Saturday near the village of Dailanor, in restive Kandahar province, said Lt. Col. Tucker Mansager, a military spokesman. The wounded men were taken to a military hospital at the U.S. base in Kandahar, the main coalition headquarters in southern Afghanistan.

Kandahar and other southern and eastern Afghan provinces have seen a considerable increase in violence in recent weeks.

“Historically, over the past two years, as the weather improves in Afghanistan ... there has been an uptick in enemy operations, particularly in the south and east,” Mansagar said. “We seem to have seen an increase in the number of attacks in the last two weeks.”

Global dragnet

But Mansager said U.S. forces have more than enough military muscle to deal with the threat. As the bloodshed has increased, military spokesmen have routinely described it as an act of “desperation” by insurgents on their last legs, echoing a line they have pushed for more than two years.

Some 2,000 Marines have arrived in Afghanistan in recent weeks, bringing the total size of the U.S. led coalition to about 15,500 soldiers. It was not clear if the men wounded in Saturday’s attack were part of the new contingent.

Spc. Pat Tillman, a former NFL player with the Arizona Cardinals , became the latest U.S. casualty when he was killed in an ambush Thursday by suspected Taliban militants in the eastern province of Khost. Several bombings have been reported in Kandahar in recent weeks, one outside a building where the governor was holding a meeting.

A two-car U.N. convoy carrying national and international staffers working on preparations for September elections was targeted in a bombing attack on a road last week just outside Kandahar, forcing the world body to temporarily suspend all operations in the region.

The United Nations and others have warned that historic presidential and parliamentary elections scheduled for September will fail unless security is improved.

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