KANDAHAR, Afghanistan — Militants killed six Americans, including a young female diplomat, and an Afghan doctor in a pair of attacks in Afghanistan on Saturday. It was the deadliest day for the United States in the war in eight months.
The violence — hours after the U.S. military's top officer arrived for consultations with Afghan and U.S.-led coalition officials — illustrates the instability plaguing the nation as foreign forces work to pull nearly all their combat troops out of the country by the end of 2014.
Three U.S. service members, two U.S. civilians and the doctor were killed when their group was struck by an explosion in Qalat while traveling to donate books to students in a school in the south, officials and the U.S. State Department said.
In a statement, Secretary of State John Kerry said the Americans included a department of defense civilian and the foreign service officer.
"She tragically gave her young life working to give young Afghans the opportunity to have a better future," Kerry said. "We also honor the U.S. troops and Department of Defense civilian who lost their lives, and the Afghan civilians who were killed today as they worked to improve the nation they love."
Officials said the explosion occurred as a coalition convoy drove past a caravan of vehicles carrying the governor of Zabul province to the same event.
Another American civilian was killed in a separate insurgent attack in eastern Afghanistan, the U.S. military said in a statement.
It was the deadliest day for Americans since Aug. 16, when seven American service members were killed in two attacks in Kandahar province, the birthplace of the Taliban insurgency. Six were killed when their helicopter was shot down by insurgents and one soldier died in a roadside bomb explosion.
The latest attacks occurred just hours after U.S. Gen. Martin Dempsey, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, landed in Afghanistan for a visit aimed at assessing the level of training that American troops can provide to Afghan security forces after international combat forces complete their withdrawal.
A U.S. official said several other Americans and Afghans, possibly as many as nine, were wounded in the attack in Zabul. The State Department said four of its staff were wounded, one critically.
Taliban spokesman Qari Yousef Ahmadi claimed responsibility for the attack and said the bomber was seeking to target either a coalition convoy or the governor.
Saturday's attacks came days after insurgents stormed a courthouse, killing more than 46 people in one of the deadliest attacks of the war, now in its 12th year.