KABUL, Afghanistan — Twelve foreign soldiers, including seven Americans, were killed in separate attacks on the deadliest day of the year for Western forces in Afghanistan. A U.S. civilian contractor who trains Afghan police also died in a brazen suicide assault.
The bloodshed Monday comes as insurgents step up bombings and other attacks ahead of a major NATO operation in the Taliban stronghold of Kandahar that Washington hopes will turn the tide of the nearly nine-year war.
Half the NATO deaths — five Americans — occurred in a single blast in eastern Afghanistan, U.S. spokesman Col. Wayne Shanks said without giving further details. It was a grim reminder the insurgents can strike throughout the country — not simply in the south, which has become the main focus of the U.S. campaign.
Two other U.S. troops were killed in separate attacks in the south — one in a bombing and the other by small arms fire.
NATO said three other service members were killed in attacks in the east and south but gave no further details. The French government announced one of the victims was a sergeant in the French Foreign Legion killed by a rocket in Kapisa province northeast of Kabul. Three other Legionnaires were wounded.
Also, two Australian soldiers were killed by an improvised explosive device in southern Afghanistan's Uruzgan province, Acting Defense Force Chief Lt. Gen. David Hurley told reporters today.
The American police trainer and a Nepalese security guard were killed when a team of three suicide bombers attacked the main gates of the police training center in the southern city of Kandahar, U.S. officials said.
Afghan officials said one bomber blew a hole in the outer wall, enabling the two others to rush inside, where they were killed in a gun battle. Afghan officials said three police were wounded.
It was the deadliest day for NATO since Oct. 26, when 11 American troops were killed, including seven who died in a helicopter crash in eastern Afghanistan. The crash was not believed a result of hostile fire.