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US soldier dies in Afghanistan

Suicide bomber kills 3 Afghans in separate attack

KANDAHAR, Afghanistan -- A suspected Taliban militant detonated explosives strapped to himself, killing a former militia commander and two others yesterday in a southern Afghan city, while a second suicide bomber was thwarted when he blew himself up as he fled police.

Firefights in the country's east, meanwhile, killed a US soldier and wounded three others, while an American special forces helicopter was destroyed by fire as it made a hard landing during an offensive. Everyone aboard escaped.

The violence came amid a reinvigorated insurgency by Taliban-led rebels that has killed more than 1,300 people in the past half year and highlighted the threat Afghanistan faces as it slowly moves toward democracy.

The two suicide bombings brought the number of such assaults in the past two weeks to five. Suicide attacks have been far less frequent here than in Iraq, although Afghan officials have warned of plots to mimic the tactics of militants in the Mideast.

The first suicide bomber yesterday struck outside the Kandahar home of Agha Shah, a former militia commander who was allied with the US-backed Northern Alliance, which swept the Taliban from power in late 2001, Kandahar's governor, Asadullah Khalid, said.

The blast killed Shah, a supporter of President Hamid Karzai, as well as two civilian passers-by and wounded eight people, the governor said.

Khalid said the bomber's head had been recovered and he was believed to be a Taliban member.

The second bombing occurred two hours later. Police received an intelligence report that an attacker was approaching a US military base in the city. Afghan officers rushed to the area, prompting the assailant to run away before he detonated the explosives strapped to his body, Khalid said.

Only the bomber was injured in the blast, which occurred about a half mile from the US base.

The bombings came a day after another suicide attack in Kandahar injured four British government officials. The deadliest suicide attack in the past two weeks was outside an army training center in the capital, Kabul, and killed nine people.

Meanwhile, a remote-controlled bomb exploded in a small village in western Afghanistan, wounding 13 Afghans. The blast was believed to be an attempt to kill a winning candidate in last month's legislative elections, said local police chief Sufullah, who uses only one name.

The US military released a statement about an attack Sunday on its troops conducting an offensive in eastern Paktika province that killed the US soldier and wounded another.

The death brought to 201 the number of US troops killed in and around Afghanistan since US-led forces invaded in late 2001 to oust the Taliban for harboring Al Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden.

In a second firefight, in eastern Kunar province, militants attacked a patrol, wounding two US troops yesterday, a separate military statement said.

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