Attacks in Afghanistan’s restive southern provinces killed three British and two US soldiers amid heightened concerns over the security situation ahead of next week’s presidential and provincial elections.
AFP - Attacks killed three British and two US soldiers in southern Afghanistan, the alliance force said Thursday, as thousands of troops pressed on with anti-insurgency operations ahead of next week's vote.
The three British soldiers died on Thursday after they were hit by an explosion while on a foot patrol in the southern province of Helmand, Britain's Ministry of Defence said.
It took the British death toll to 199 since the US-led invasion of Afghanistan in late 2001, it said.
The deaths were also announced by the International Security Assistance Forces (ISAF), which said separately that two US soldiers were killed in other incidents in the south on Wednesday and on Thursday.
One involved an explosion and the other was a "direct fire attack", it said.
The soldiers are the latest in a long line of mostly Western troops to die in the effort to defeat extremists in Afghanistan.
Around 30 international soldiers have been killed in Afghanistan this month, according to the icasualties.org website which compiles a toll.
Last month was the deadliest for the troops since the 2001 US-led invasion, with 76 killed, the website says. Most deaths were caused by improvised explosive devices.
US Marines and British troops have been pressing major offensives in the southern provinces of Helmand and Kandahar ahead of the landmark August 20 presidential and provincial council elections.
The aim is to secure these areas so that election workers can move in and voters can cast their ballots without fear of attack.
About 4,000 Marines deployed into insurgent strongholds in Helmand in early July and were able to retake areas held by the extremists. The Taliban have responded by planting bombs to hit the troops.
US and Afghan troops launched a new operation on Wednesday in northeastern Helmand. The province is one of the world's main poppy-producing regions and a route for Taliban fighters crossing from Pakistan to join the insurgency.
Operation Eastern Resolve II deployed 400 US troops and 100 Afghan soldiers to a Taliban stronghold in Helmand province, said Brigadier General Larry Nicholson, commander of the Marine Expeditionary Brigade in Afghanistan.
ISAF says the enhanced counter-insurgency operation aims "to increase security to enable development and governance".
There are more than 100,000 international soldiers in Afghanistan, around two-thirds of them in the US military, with British and Canadian forces also playing a role in the south, the most dangerous battlefield.
Date created : 2009-08-14