Two attacks in Afghanistan have killed six US citizens in the deadliest day for foreign forces this year. According to a US security source, three of the Americans were soldiers and another was a female diplomat.
A Taliban bomb struck a NATO convoy in the southern province of Zabul, killing three troops and two civilian workers, including a US diplomat, the International Security Assitance Force (ISAF) announced late on Saturday. ISAF said the convoy was en route to donate books to a school in the regional capital, Qalat. An ISAF spokesman added that Afghans, including a doctor, also died or suffered injuries in the attack.
In a separate attack in the country's east, a US citizen also died, but security forces gave no further details.
Calling the attack "despicable," US Secretary of State John Kerry said he met the unidentified diplomat during a visit to Kabul last week and described her as "smart, capable, eager to serve and deeply committed to our country and the difference she was making for the Afghan people."
"She tragically gave her young life working to give young Afghans the opportunity to have a better future," Kerry said. "We also honor the US troops and Department of Defense civilian who lost their lives, and the Afghan civilians who were killed today as they worked to improve the nation they love."
The Zabul attack also left four State Department staffers injured, Kerry said, one critically. Taliban insurgents said they carried out the strike.
The number of foreign military troops killed in Afghanistan this year has grown to 30, including 22 Americans. The Associated Press estimates that a total of six foreign civilians have died in Afghanistan so far this year. Saturday made for the deadliest day for the coalition since two separate attacks on July 8 last year killed seven soldiers, also in southern and eastern Afghanistan.
About 100,000 international troops remain in Afghanistan, including 66,000 from the United States. The US will decrease its total to about 32,000 by early next year, with the bulk of the decline occurring during the winter months. Troop numbers are being gradually phased down ahead of the planned end of ISAF combat missions in Afghanistan at the end of 2014.
The US and its allies have made no concrete decision on numbers, but are expected to leave between 8,000 and 12,000 troops after the 2014 withdrawal from Afghanistan - most of them serving as trainers or advisers.
On Thursday, Taliban gunmen killed 46 people at a court complex in western Afghanistan in a bid to free insurgents standing trial. That attack in Farah, which borders Iran, marked the deadliest in over a year in Afghanistan. The Taliban consider civilians working for the government or the coalition legitimate targets, despite a warning from the United Nations that such killings may violate international law.
mkg/msh (Reuters, AFP, dpa, AP)