EIGHT American soldiers have been killed in a bombing in southern Afghanistan, in one of the worst single incidents in recent months.
Pentagon spokesman Colonel Dave Lapan said the soldiers were killed by two successive blasts yesterday in the same location in Shorabak district, in Kandahar province.
Kandahar is the birthplace of the Taliban and fighting there in the coming months is likely to prove a key test of foreign forces’ ability to hold ground in the south taken from insurgents last year after a troop surge.
Local border police commander Tafseer Khan Khogyani said the attack, which also killed two Afghan policemen, took place as coalition and Afghan forces were on patrol about 20 kilometres from the Pakistan border.
“As they approached a container, explosives that had been placed inside went off, causing a huge explosion,” he said.
Kandahar border police chief General Abdul Razeq said the container was used as an ammunition store by Taliban fighters smuggling weapons across the border from Pakistan.
A Taliban spokesman claimed responsibility for the blast, which was initially announced by the NATO-led International Security Assistance Force.
The bombing brings to 199 the number of foreign troops who have been killed in Afghanistan this year, according to a tally based on that kept by the independent website iCasualties.org.
Of those, 148 were from the United States. The total international force death toll for last year was 711.
The blast caused ISAF’s highest death toll in a single incident since April 27, when nine Americans – eight troops and a contractor – were killed by an Afghan officer who opened fire at a Kabul military training centre.
It also brought the death toll of foreign troops in a single day to nine. Earlier yesterday, a NATO helicopter crashed in a mountainous area of eastern Afghanistan, killing one.
There are around 130,000 ISAF service personnel in the war-torn country, around 90,000 of whom are from the United States.
Much of Afghanistan’s worst fighting takes place in the south of the country, particularly in the provinces of Kandahar and Helmand, which border Pakistani areas where insurgents have hideouts.
While international forces insist they have been taking the fight to insurgents throughout the winter, the Taliban announced the start of their spring fighting season at the end of April.
The commander of foreign forces in Afghanistan, US General David Petraeus, warned in a memo released last Saturday that they could face tough times ahead.