A roadside bomb attack in eastern Afghanistan killed a U.S. service member — the fifth American casualty in a week — and suspected Taliban rebels gunned down an Afghan woman accused of spying for the coalition, officials said Wednesday.
The spate of violence deepens concerns over security in the east and south of the country ahead of key legislative elections set for Sept. 18, Afghanistan’s next major step toward democracy after two decades of war and civil strife.
In a statement, the U.S. military reported that a roadside bomb exploded Tuesday near a vehicle in eastern Ghazni province where an American unit was conducting operations to “disrupt enemy activity in the region.”
Two wounded American troops were evacuated to the main U.S. base at Bagram, north of Kabul; one died shortly after arrival, and the second was in stable condition.
More than 17,000 U.S. troops are in Afghanistan, and over 170 have died in and around the country since Operation Enduring Freedom began in late 2001 to oust the hard-line Taliban regime after the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks.
Today, 3 1/2 years later, Taliban-led insurgents remain active. Fighting with coalition forces intensified this year, and more than 900 people have died since March in violence officials warn could escalate as insurgents step up sabotage efforts before elections.
Spate of attacks
On Wednesday, a bomb exploded near a police jeep parked at a compound used by election workers in Logar, damaging the vehicle but causing no casualties.
Sultan Ahmad Baheen, a spokesman for the U.N.-Afghan Joint Electoral Management Body, which is overseeing the upcoming polls, said the jeep belonged to police providing security for the workers.
On Monday, one U.S. service member and 18 suspected Taliban rebels were killed in fighting in the volatile southern province of Zabul. Coalition aircraft joined the battle, sparked when a U.S. and Afghan patrol came under fire from militants using small-arms and rocket-propelled grenades.
Initial reports said at least 16 militants were killed, but U.S. military spokesman Col. James Yonts said Wednesday that new assessments confirmed the higher death toll.
Last Thursday, two U.S. troops drowned when their Humvee vehicle slid into a river near Jalalabad city. A third was killed the same day by a roadside bomb in Paktika province, near the Pakistan border.
Woman killed for alleged spying
Afghan officials, meanwhile, reported that six militants fatally shot an unidentified woman in Zabul province’s Mizan district after bursting into her house late Tuesday. District chief Haji Mohammed Yaunas said the militants accused the woman of giving information to American forces.
Separately, Afghan soldiers raided the home of an alleged insurgent in Zabul’s Naubahar district, arresting the man and confiscating remote-controlled mines, hand grenades and six motorbikes, said district chief Haji Varif Khan.
In other violence, a private truck carrying equipment for U.S.-led coalition reconstruction projects was hit by two rocket-propelled grenades late Tuesday in eastern Logar province, said the province’s police chief, Khan Mohammed.
A container on the back of the truck was damaged, but the driver was unharmed, he said.