Six troops die as Taliban responds to NATO 'surge'
SIX Western troops, including three Americans, were killed in Afghanistan yesterday, underscoring warnings that casualties will increase as more foreign troops arrive.
In a separate incident, a British bomb-disposal expert died following an explosion. The soldier, from the Royal Logistic Corps, was killed in northern Helmand Province yesterday morning. His death takes the number of British service personnel who have died since the start of operations in Afghanistan in 2001 to 241.
Despite the rise in Taliban violence, support among Afghans for the presence of foreign forces has actually increased. A poll released yesterday found that nearly seven in 10 Afghans support the maintenance of US forces in their country. Nevertheless, yesterday was the deadliest day for the NATO-led international force in more than two months.
The Americans died in a firefight with militants in southern Afghanistan, US military spokesman Col Wayne Shanks said. He declined to provide details on the exact location of the clash.
The deaths raised to at least 10 the number of US service members killed in Afghanistan already this year.
A French officer was killed during a joint patrol with Afghan troops in Alasay, a valley 80 kilometres northeast of Kabul. Another French service member was seriously wounded in the attack.
NATO said another service member was killed in the clash but did not release the nationality. It added that a sixth service member was killed by a roadside bomb in the south.
The southern half of the country, the Taliban heartland, has frequently been hit by attacks as the US military builds up its presence in the area.
Most of the 30,000 additional American troops that President Barack Obama has ordered to Afghanistan will be deployed there.
US military officials have acknowledged that the insurgency has the momentum and warned that the troop build-up ordered by President Obama is likely to lead to more casualties as the fight intensifies.
On Sunday, a British correspondent and a US Marine were killed by a roadside bomb in the south-west of the country.
'Sunday Mirror' journalist Rupert Hamer, 39, was the first British journalist to be killed in the conflict.
Hamer and photographer Philip Coburn (43) were accompanying a US Marine patrol when their vehicle was hit by a makeshift bomb near the village of Nawa, the British Defence Ministry said. Coburn was also seriously wounded.