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Eight US troops killed as violence rises in southern Afghanistan

By Kay Johnson
Associated Press / July 15, 2010

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KABUL, Afghanistan — In a brutal 24-hour period, eight American troops were killed in attacks including an audacious Taliban raid on a police compound in the key southern city of Kandahar, officials said yesterday.

The United States and its coalition allies have warned that violence and casualties could mount this summer as thousands of new forces fan out across southern insurgent strongholds in a bid to turn around the nearly nine-year-long war.

However, a top US commander in the south said yesterday that the new operation should start reducing violence in coming months.

So far in July, 45 coalition troops have died in Afghanistan, 33 of them Americans, continuing the upward trend of the previous month, which was the war’s deadliest for the NATO-led force, with 103 international soldiers killed.

A suicide attacker slammed a car bomb into the gate of the headquarters of the elite Afghan National Civil Order Police late Tuesday night in Kandahar, the international force said. Minutes later, insurgents opened fire with machine guns and rocket-propelled grenades.

Three US troops, an Afghan policeman, and five civilians — three interpreters and two security guards — died in the attack, but NATO said the insurgents were prevented from entering the compound.

Four more American troops were killed elsewhere in the south by a roadside bomb, while another service member died the same day of wounds from a gun battle, also in the south. NATO gave no further details of those attacks.

The special Civil Order Police had only recently sent 600 more officers to Kandahar to set up checkpoints along with international forces to try to secure the south’s largest city, the spiritual birthplace of the Taliban.

Also in Kandahar, a progovernment cleric and member of a local people’s council was gunned down in a mosque yesterday.

Haji Khalifa, a member of the Pajawai district shura, or council, was shot dead as he prayed, said provincial shura member Agha Haji Lalai.

He said assassinations have increased in Kandahar as insurgents make the point they can still operate despite the extra security.

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