Six NATO, two Afghan troops killed in Afghanistan

KABUL (AFP) — Six NATO and two Afghan troops were killed in northeast Afghanistan after being ambushed by insurgents who inflicted one of their deadliest tolls for years, military officials said Saturday.

The troops were ambushed on Friday while walking back from a meeting with village elders.

NATO’s International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) would not release the nationalities of the six, but most of the foreign troops in the northeast are US nationals.

The deaths in Nuristan province took the number of foreign soldiers killed in Afghanistan this year to 200, according to an AFP count based on official statements.

“They came under attack from Taliban following which fierce fighting broke out,” Afghan defence ministry spokesman Zahir Murad told AFP.

“The enemy has also suffered big casualties but we don’t have a figure.”

The group were ambushed from several sides while returning from the village meeting to their base, said Lieutenant Colonel David Accetta, a spokesman for the separate US-led military coalition fighting the Taliban and Al-Qaeda.

“It was not a combat patrol. It was a mission to meet villagers to discuss development, governance and security,” he told AFP.

It was not clear if they were killed in the ambush or subsequent fighting, he said.

The Afghan defence ministry said four of its men were hurt, while ISAF said eight of its soldiers were wounded.

The incident was the “highest casualty-producing ground engagement” in the east since ISAF took command of the area in February, Accetta added.

Besides air crashes, it was also one of the deadliest incidents involving international and Afghan soldiers who have been fighting an insurgency led by the Taliban, which ruled Afghanistan between 1996 and 2001 when it was ousted by a US-led coalition.

Six Canadian soldiers and an Afghan interpreter were killed in a bomb blast in July; six other Canadians died in a similar blast in April.

In a separate incident, a suicide attacker aiming for German soldiers blew himself up just outside the northern town of Kunduz, killing an elderly Afghan man, provincial governor Mohammad Omar said.

“He was trying to get close to a NATO German convoy,” he said. “Two people were wounded. An old man died in the hospital.”

A spokesman for the extremist Taliban movement told AFP in a telephone call that his group was responsible.

In another attack in the north in the past week, a Norwegian soldier in the ISAF force was killed in a bomb blast in Faryab province on Thursday.

Until this week the north had seen relatively little of the violence which has rocked the insurgency-hit south and east.

On Tuesday, however, Afghanistan’s worst ever suicide bombing killed nearly 80 people outside the normally peaceful town of Pul-i-Khumri.

They included six deputies from the country’s first democratically elected parliament, one of them a key opposition figure.

Also among the dead were 59 school pupils who had gathered to welcome the lawmakers to a sugar factory, and five teachers and five bodyguards, according to various officials.

The Taliban, which has threatened to push its insurgency into the north, has denied involvement.

The previous deadliest attack in Kabul in June killed 35 people.

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