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U.S. soldier, Afghan killed in gunfight

A U.S. soldier was killed during a search operation in western Afghanistan that also left an Afghan dead on Sunday.
/ Source: The Associated Press

One U.S. soldier and an Afghan were killed Sunday when American troops clashed with gunmen during a search operation in western Afghanistan, the U.S. military said.

The troops came under attack from "enemy forces" while searching a compound near Shindand Airfield in Herat province early Sunday morning and returned fire, a military statement said.

"The Afghan citizen died at the scene," the statement said. "The U.S. soldier was wounded in the attack and ... died a short time later at the airfield as a result of wounds received."

The soldier's name was being withheld until his next of kin could be notified.

The military also didn't identify the dead Afghan, or say if he was a suspected militant or a bystander.

But a local militia commander, Akhtar Mohammed Husseini, said the compound belonged to a former militia leader called Mullah Dost.

"There was fire from both sides. Mullah Dost was killed along with his wife, and two of their children were injured," Husseini told The Associated Press by telephone. "The Americans wanted to search his house, but we don't know who fired first."

Bomb suspect arrested
On Saturday, security forces arrested a Tajik suspected of organizing the deadly car-bombing of a U.S. security firm in the Afghan capital and believe he was acting on the orders of al-Qaida, an Afghan official said.

The suspect, Mohammed Haidar, confessed to his leading role in the Aug. 29 car-bomb attack, which killed about 10 people, including three Americans, Afghan state television reported.

A spokesman for the Afghan intelligence service, Mohammed Nader, said the report was accurate but declined to discuss the details.

Haidar also admitted organizing an Oct. 23 suicide attack on a Kabul shopping street that killed an American woman and an Afghan child, the TV report said. The attack was allegedly carried out by a Kashmiri militant.

American military officials say al-Qaida cells could still be operating in several Afghan cities, three years after U.S. forces entered Afghanistan to pursue members of Osama bin Laden’s organization in the wake of the Sept. 11 attacks.

Al-Qaida sweep
U.S. and Afghan forces killed nine people and detained at least 18 others in a month-long sweep against al-Qaida suspects late last year, and one American general has suggested the Kabul car-bomb was the work of a militant group with links to the radical Islamic network.

It was unclear when Haidar, a bearded man of about 30 shown briefly during the evening news, was detained.

The report said Haidar told investigators that he had traveled to the Pakistani city of Peshawar to meet an alleged al-Qaida member called Attaullah who gave him the instructions to carry out the attacks.

Attaullah supposedly paid Haidar $7,000 to buy a car and explosives, the report said. It didn’t say when the meeting supposedly took place.

The car bomb devastated the main office of Dyncorp, a private security contractor which supplies bodyguards for Afghan President Hamid Karzai and is training the country’s police force.

The suicide attack, carried out by a young man laden with hand grenades, apparently targeted a group of Icelandic soldiers as they visited a carpet store. Three of them were slightly injured.