Attacks kill 5 NATO soldiers and 4 Afghan civilians

KABUL (Reuters) – Two improvised explosive devices (IED) killed five soldiers from NATO-led forces and one civilian in Afghanistan on Friday, the NATO force said in a statement, and a young suicide bomber killed three civilians in the south.

Taliban militants have been increasingly active this year, targeting foreign and Afghan military convoys with roadside bombs and suicide attacks, and a group of aid agencies said on Friday the violence had reached its highest level since 2001.

The number of insurgent attacks was greater in both May and June than in any month since U.S.-led and Afghan forces toppled the Taliban in 2001, and more than 260 civilians were killed in July alone, the Agency Coordinating Body for Afghan Relief said.

Four soldiers of NATO’s International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) and one civilian were killed by an IED in the northwestern province of Kunar on Friday, the ISAF said in a statement. It does not release the nationality of dead soldiers but most of the soldiers in Kunar are American.

The Taliban claimed responsibility for the attack and said it had used a remote-controlled roadside bomb.

A fifth ISAF soldier was also killed by an IED on Friday in the eastern province of Khost, the ISAF said in a separate statement. Most of the troops stationed in the eastern province bordering Pakistan are also American.

“This is a very difficult time right now, and our sincere condolences and sympathies are with the family and friends of the brave soldiers and civilian who died,” the ISAF spokesman, Captain Mark Windsor, said in the statement.

SUICIDE BOMBER KILLS CIVILIANS

In another incident, a suicide bomber killed three civilians in Zaranj district in the southern province of Nimroz on Friday, district police chief Ayub Badakhshi told Reuters.

Police identified the suicide bomber, who was on foot, and shot him when his explosives detonated killing three civilians, Badakhshi said. “We had to shoot him dead because we couldn’t stop him,” he said.

Police say the bomber was around 15 years old.

Violence has risen by some 40 percent in eastern Afghanistan this year, the ISAF says, because more militants have been able to infiltrate from neighboring Pakistan as a result of de facto ceasefires there between militants and the Pakistani army.

U.S. officials in Washington say a growing number of Pakistani militants are crossing into Afghanistan and are often more skilful and effective than previous insurgent groups.

ACBAR, the umbrella group of about 100 NGOs in Afghanistan, said in its statement “We … express our grave concern about the deteriorating security situation in Afghanistan and the serious impact on civilians.”

Many schools and clinics have closed and significant numbers of people have become internally displaced, while 19 NGO staff have been killed this year, ACBAR said.

The number of international troops in the country has risen by more than 10,000 in the past year to some 71,000 and Afghan troop levels have risen by about the same number, but the Taliban insurgency has expanded in scope and depth.

Some 2,500 people have been killed in the Afghan conflict this year, up to 1,000 of them civilians, ACBAR said. Two-thirds of civilian deaths are due to insurgent attacks, but the higher number of air strikes by international forces also contributed to the rising civilian death toll, its statement said.

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