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Bombing kills 4 U.S. troops, making 2009 NATO's deadliest year in Afghan war

MAZAR-E-SHARIF, Afghanistan — A roadside bomb that struck an American military convoy in southern Afghanistan on Tuesday killed four U.S. soldiers, making 2009 the deadliest year for international forces here since the war began in late 2001.

The attack occurred while the Americans were patrolling in Kandahar province, the U.S. military said.

With four months left in the year, the deaths of the four U.S. soldiers Tuesday pushed the 2009 toll for NATO-led coalition troops to 295, one more than died in all of 2008, according to icasualties.org, a Web site that tracks military deaths in Afghanistan and Iraq. Of the total this year, 172 of those killed were Americans.

The Taliban is using roadside bombs "indiscriminately" in attacks that also kill large numbers of Afghan civilians, said Rear Adm. Gregory J. Smith, a U.S. military spokesman in Afghanistan. He said the increased violence is a result of the Taliban exerting influence in a growing portion of the country.

"There is a growth in the number of individuals, most of which are assessed to be Afghans, which are fighting this fight," Smith said. "When you combine that with the increase in forces pursuing that insurgency … we should all expect an increase in casualties, unfortunate as that is."

The commander of the U.S. Central Command echoed that sentiment Tuesday, saying that growing numbers of American soldiers sent to Afghanistan will encounter tough fighting.

Gen. David Petraeus, who oversees U.S. combat operations in Iraq and Afghanistan and is best known for coordinating the troop surge that significantly reduced violence in Iraq, warned that "an enormous amount of hard work and tough fighting lies ahead" in Afghanistan.

The election

PRESIDENT HAS INITIAL EDGE

A first, partial tally of votes in Thursday's presidential election released Tuesday by Afghan election officials showed President Hamid Karzai with a slight edge over his chief challenger, Abdullah Abdullah. With just over half a million votes — 10 percent of the ballots — counted, Karzai had captured 40 percent and Abdullah 38 percent. The numbers, though far from conclusive, suggest that Karzai may not win outright and that the two men will face a runoff in October. Also Tuesday, Abdullah produced apparent evidence of what he called systematic, government-orchestrated election fraud by Karzai's team. Abdullah showed journalists tablets of multiple paper ballots Tuesday marked with identical checks for Karzai. Officials from several southern provinces have described numerous cases in which only a few voters turned out at polling places because of Taliban threats; full ballot boxes containing hundreds of votes were later delivered to Kabul for counting.

Blast kills at least 41 civilians

A cluster of vehicle bombs detonated simultaneously Tuesday in Kandahar near a Japanese company that plans to build a road through an insurgent-held area. At least 41 people were killed, all civilians, officials said. So many houses and nearby buildings collapsed in the blast that officials feared the death toll could rise further. At least 66 people were wounded, police said. It appeared the main target was the Japanese company, which is involved in reconstruction efforts in the city. The company recently took over a contract to build a road that insurgents had stalled for months. No one immediately claimed responsibility.

Bombing kills 4 U.S. troops, making 2009 NATO's deadliest year in Afghan war 08/25/09 [Last modified: Tuesday, August 25, 2009 9:51pm]
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