Eight American troops died in attacks in southern Afghanistan, including a car bombing and gunfight outside a police compound in Kandahar, officials said Wednesday as the Taliban push back against a coalition effort to secure the volatile region.
A suicide attacker slammed a car bomb into the gate of the headquarters of the elite Afghan National Civil Order Police late Tuesday in Kandahar, a NATO statement said. Minutes later, insurgents opened fire with machine guns and rocket-propelled grenades.
Three U.S. troops, an Afghan policeman and five civilians died in the attack, but NATO said the insurgents failed to enter the compound.
The special police unit, known as ANCOP, had only recently been dispatched to Kandahar to set up checkpoints along with international forces to try to secure the south's largest city, the spiritual birthplace of the Taliban.
The dead civilians included three Afghan translators and two security guards, Kandahar provincial police chief Sardar Mohammad Zazai said.
Taliban spokesman Qari Yousef Ahmadi telephoned reporters Wednesday to claim responsibility for the attack. The insurgents, which are prone to exaggerate death tolls inflicted on Afghan and international security forces, claimed 13 international troops and eight Afghan security forces died in the raid.
NATO and Afghan troops are fanning out elsewhere in Kandahar province to pressure insurgents in rural areas. The strategy is to improve security with more and better-trained police and troops so that capable governance can take root and development projects can move forward and win the loyalty of ordinary Afghans.
The Taliban have responded by ratcheting suicide attacks and bombings, making last month the deadliest of the nearly 9-year-old war for international forces.
On Wednesday, four more American troops were killed by a roadside bomb in the south, while one more U.S. service member died the same day of wounds from a gunbattle.
So far in July, 45 international troops have died in Afghanistan, 33 of them Americans.
In other attacks around the country, nine Afghan civilians died in the south when their vehicle hit a roadside bomb in the volatile district of Marjah in Helmand province, the Ministry of Interior said. Another homemade bomb killed two security guards traveling on a road in eastern Paktika province.
Two suspected Taliban also died in Helmand's Lashkar Gar district when the roadside bomb they were trying to plant exploded prematurely, the ministry said.
Homemade explosives planted in roads and pathways are a leading killer of international forces and also kill hundreds of civilians each year.