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Florida soldier killed in blast

A Davie police officer was among at least seven American soldiers killed when a weapons cache exploded in Afghanistan last week.

Sgt. 1st Class Curtis Mancini, 43, died in the blast Thursday near Ghazni, about 90 miles southwest of Kabul. Mancini was assigned to the 2nd Battalion Infantry, 10th Mountain Division.

A mortar round exploded during a training exercise, killing seven soldiers and leaving one missing. The U.S. military said Saturday it appeared to have been an accident.

Mancini, who also had served in Iraq, had recently been redeployed after spending the holidays at home, officials said.

"He told his mother, "I need to do this now so that my children and other people's children won't need to do it later.' He was a soldier's soldier," said his father, John Mancini of Lincoln, R.I., who served 35 years in the Army and retired as a sergeant major.

Mancini was an avid sportsman and motorcyclist, friends said. He is survived by three children.

Other soldiers killed:

+ Staff Sgt. Shawn M. Clemens, 28, of Allegany, N.Y.

+ Spc. Robert J. Cook, 24, of Sun Prairie, Wis.

+ Spc. Adam G. Kinser, 21, of Sacramento, Calif.

+ Staff Sgt. James D. Mowris, 37, of Aurora, Miss.

+ Spc. Justin A. Scott, 22, of Bellevue, Ky.

+ Sgt. Danton K. Seitsinger, 29, of Oklahoma City, Okla.

+ Missing is Sgt. Benjamin L. Gilman, 28, of Meriden, Conn.

Karzai: U.S. air strike killed 10 civilians

KABUL, Afghanistan _ The Afghan president on Saturday said a U.S. air strike this month killed 10 civilians, including women and children, contradicting American military reports that claimed the casualties were Taliban militants.

President Hamid Karzai said an Interior Ministry report had found that the Jan. 17 air strike on a village killed 10 civilians _ despite the U.S. military's declaration that five Taliban militants and no civilians died.

"There are casualties, unfortunately, according to the report that I have received, of civilians, of children and men and women," Karzai said.

Lt. Col. Bryan Hilferty said the Americans took the concerns of the Afghan government "very seriously," and a review of its report was under way.

Last week, U.S. officials expressed confidence of capturing Osama bin Laden and Taliban leader Mullah Omar this year and revealed plans for a spring offensive.

Karzai welcomed the U.S. optimism, saying it was a sign bin Laden was likely in the region, hiding on either side of the rugged Afghan border with Pakistan.

"His exact location is not known," he said.

Statement, attributed to Taliban leader, received

KABUL, Afghanistan _ A statement purportedly from Taliban leader Mullah Omar vowed to defeat American forces in Afghanistan, and accused Afghan President Hamid Karzai's U.S.-backed government of destroying Islamic values.

"The spell of American oppression will be broken to pieces," said the statement, which was faxed Saturday to the Associated Press in the Pakistani border city of Peshawar.

It was not possible to independently confirm the authenticity of the statement, delivered ahead of the start of the Muslim holiday Eid al-Adha, or Feast of Sacrifice.

The Taliban leader accused Karzai's government of "throwing dust into the eyes of the people" by adopting a new constitution and planning elections, which he said were a means for America "to justify its illegal occupation."

"For Muslims, that fraud democracy is bringing the gifts of killings, bombings, destruction of homes," Omar said.