NATO troops killed in Afghanistan

Several more NATO troops and civilians have died in Afghanistan ahead of the country's presidential elections, officials reported on Tuesday.
Afghan soldiers rush out of a Chinook transport helicopter in Kunar province on Tuesday. Militants and government troops alike are intensifying operations as the country heads toward a national election. ((Oleg Popov/Reuters))

Several more NATO troops and civilians have died in Afghanistan ahead of the country's presidential elections, officials reported on Tuesday.

Three U.S. troops, a Polish NATO soldier, two Afghan soldiers, at least nine civilians and 22 Taliban insurgents have died since Monday, officials said.

The attacks come after recent comments from Gen. Stanley McChrystal, the top U.S. commander in Afghanistan, that the Taliban appear to be gaining strength ahead of the Aug. 20 election.

NATO has about 64,000 soldiers in Afghanistan, half of them Americans, where they are struggling to contain an escalating Taliban insurgency. Commanders have said they are expecting higher casualties.

An Afghan youth waits for transportation after being injured near a building taken over Monday by militants in Pul-i-Alam, south of Kabul. ((Associated Press))
The latest U.S. casualties died in separate "hostile fire incidents," NATO said without providing the exact locations.

A statement issued by NATO indicated one of the troops had died of wounds from an incident on Saturday, another died on Sunday and the third died on Monday.

Polish Capt. Daniel Ambrozinski, 32, was also found dead early Tuesday after having disappeared after when foot patrol came under fire on Monday, officials said.

July saw a record number of foreign troops killed in Afghanistan since the 2001 invasion, and at least 24 have already died in August, according to officials.

Push into Taliban territory

U.S. marines and NATO troops have been pushing into Taliban-controlled territory in an attempt to extend government control and ensure stability ahead of next week's elections, which militants have vowed to disrupt.

More than 2,800 Canadians are in Afghanistan as part of the NATO-led mission in the country, with most stationed in the volatile southern Kandahar province.

An increasing number of brazen attacks on government institutions, especially in southern Afghanistan, are occurring every day.

Officials reported that roadside bombs killed nine civilians in the Zhari district on Tuesday and another five were wounded in a separate bombing incident in Dand district.

A recent report by the United Nations said the number of civilians killed in conflict in Afghanistan has jumped 24 per cent this year.

At least 595 civilians were killed by the Taliban — mostly by suicide attack and roadside bombs — in the first six months of 2009, according to the report, which also warned that those casualties will likely rise leading into the elections.

McChrystal has said troops serving in Helmand, where U.S. marines are cracking down on the drug trade, may be shifted to Kandahar in an effort to provide more protection to civilians.

Afghan officials also reported that about at least 22 Taliban fighters had been killed during clashes and air strikes in southern Afghanistan late Monday.

In the same area of Zabul province, two Afghan soldiers were killed and three were wounded, said regional commander Gen. Sher Mohammad Zazai.

With files from The Associated Press