Two Italian soldiers killed in Afghan bombing

/ Source: The Associated Press

A roadside bomb killed two Italian soldiers and wounded four while they were on patrol Friday south of Kabul, a military spokesman said, in a rare attack close to the capital.

Two Italian military vehicles were patrolling together when one of them was hit around 5 p.m., said Maj. Luke Knittig, a Kabul-based spokesman for NATO’s International Security Assistance Force.

The attack apparently occurred in Kabul province, just south of the capital, he said.

Taliban-inspired militants have stepped up attacks in recent months, particularly in Afghanistan’s southern provinces, the heartland of the hard-line regime before its ouster by U.S.-led forces in late 2001. Attacks closer to Kabul are not as common.

Italian forces until Thursday commanded NATO’s 10,000-strong security forces, which are now under British control. Italy still has more than 1,600 troops here, mostly based in Kabul.

The four wounded soldiers were evacuated to a medical facility, Knittig said.

“The soldiers that were attacked in this case were exercising duties to assist with security,” Knittig said. “The very knowledge that there are security threats in the Kabul area is why they were out.”

Three other Italian military personnel have died in Afghanistan.

Also Friday, a roadside bomb blamed on Taliban militants killed two members of a prominent provincial political family and a bodyguard in southern Afghanistan.

Lala, a tribal elder who goes by one name and the uncle of a former provincial governor, died in the blast, as did his son and a bodyguard, said Ghuman Muhbdin, head administrator for Helmand province, about 370 miles southwest of Kabul.

Lala, a religious cleric, and the two others were traveling to Friday prayers when the bomb exploded, Muhbdin said.

Militants also ambushed a police patrol in Helmand on Friday, and two police were killed in the hour-long firefight, said Interior Ministry spokesman Mohammed Yousuf Stanezai.

A number of militants were believed to have been injured or killed, but Stanezai couldn’t say how many.

Elsewhere, a roadside bomb apparently meant for the police chief of Ghazni province, about 40 miles southwest of Kabul, injured the chief’s driver and two bodyguards Friday, said Ahmad Jan, a police assistant. The chief was in Kabul when the bomb went off, Jan said.

Separately, militants using machine guns and rocket propelled grenades attacked a police headquarters late Thursday in the Jalrez district of Wardak province, about 20 miles west of Kabul, said Padcha Gul, deputy police chief of Wardak province. One policeman was injured, he said.

The Afghan army, acting on a tip, raided a Taliban hide-out in southern Afghanistan, triggering a gunbattle that left four rebels dead, a senior army official said Friday.

The army suffered no losses in late Thursday’s fighting in Zabul’s Shahre Safa district, about 90 miles northeast of Kandahar, said Afghan army commander Gen. Rahmatullah Raufi.

He said the Taliban took away the bodies of the four slain men before escaping.