KABUL, Afghanistan — Two U.S. service members were killed in a roadside bombing in restive southern Afghanistan, where thousands of American troops have been deployed to wrest back control of insurgent strongholds.
Also in the south, gunmen kidnapped five Health Ministry employees in
volatile Kandahar province while insurgents killed a district official elsewhere, reportedly on the orders of the Taliban supreme leader, officials said Thursday.
Insurgent bombings, gunbattles, assassinations and abductions have skyrocketed this year. The circumstances surrounding the deaths of the two American troops were unclear as NATO released no more details.
Members of a medical team were abducted Wednesday while returning to Kandahar city, the provincial capital, after visiting a project in Maiwand district, provincial spokesman Zulmi Ayubi said Thursday.
Gunmen forced the car to stop about a
mile (two kilometers) outside Maiwand and kidnapped two doctors, a pharmacist, a nurse and their driver, Ayubi said. The Health Ministry issued a statement calling for their release.
The kidnappers were not identified, but Taliban insurgents have been on a spree of assassinations and abductions of government workers.
Kandahar is the spiritual birthplace of the Taliban, who follow an extreme form of Islam that they imposed on Afghanistan during their five years in power before their regime was toppled by U.S.-backed forces for sheltering al-Qaida terrorist leaders.
In neighboring Uruzgan province, insurgents manning a makeshift checkpoint pulled a district leader out of his vehicle and shot him dead Tuesday, according to Gulab Khan, the provincial deputy police chief.
A NATO statement said Saleh Mohammad was on a list of Afghan officials that Mullah Mohammad Omar, the leader of the main Afghan Taliban faction, sent to his followers with orders to kill.
Also in Uruzgan, police said they killed a local Taliban commander, identified as Mullah Dawood, in a gunbattle.
A routine police patrol discovered the insurgents in a village in Tarin Kot district, said Khan. He said five militants, including the commander and a bomb-maker, died in the fighting and police suffered no casualties.
Taliban spokesmen could not be reached for comment.
Building up Afghan police and army into a reliable security force is one of the lynchpins of the new counterinsurgency policy for the nearly nine-year-old Afghan war. It calls for an increase in international troops to secure areas and then turn them over to local authorities, eventually allowing foreign troops to withdraw without the Taliban seizing power again.