Three U.S. soldiers were wounded, one of them critically, when Afghan insurgents attacked their vehicle with rockets and guns, the American military said Monday.
The military also announced the capture of more than five Taliban leaders, and confirmed the death of a rebel commander who had been released from the U.S. prison in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba.
The American soldiers were hurt when militants attacked the vehicle Saturday morning near Qalat, the capital of the troubled southeastern profince of Zabul, a military statement said.
It said the three wounded soldiers were evacuated to a military hospital in Landstuhl, Germany for treatment. One soldier was in critical condition and the other two were in stable condition.
Zabul is a focus of operations for the 18,000-strong American-led force battling Taliban insurgents and other anti-government militias across the south and east of Afghanistan.
900 killed this year
More than 900 people have died in violence across the country so far this year. U.S. and Afghan officials say militants are stepping up attacks in an attempt to disrupt Oct. 9 presidential elections.
U.S. and Afghan forces captured “more than five” Taliban leaders in operations since Saturday, the statement said. No details of their identity was released.
The military also confirmed the killing of Abdul Ghaffar, a rebel commander in the Taliban stronghold of central Uruzgan province.
Afghan officials say that Ghaffar, who died along with two other suspects in a gunbattle Saturday night, rejoined the rebels after being released from Guantanamo Bay.
Interior Minister Ali Ahmad Jalali said on Sunday that Ghaffar was captured shortly after the U.S. bombing campaign which pushed the Taliban from power in late 2001, but released about eight months later.
U.S.: Transfers ‘not without risk’
A U.S. defense official, speaking on the condition of anonymity, confirmed that Abdul Ghaffar was once held at Guantanamo.
Lt. Cmdr. Flex Plexico, a spokesman for the Pentagon, said, “Transfers (of prisoners home) are not without risk. We make a determination about transfer of a detainee based on the best information we have at the time. Remember, some of these people are highly skilled in concealing the truth.”
The U.S. military also said U.S.-led forces had rounded up more than 10 “Taliban facilitators” in the southeast, disrupting the guerrillas’ ability to plan and conduct raids.