Four Canadian soldiers killed in southern Afghanistan; 21 civilians die in car bombing
The Associated PressKANDAHAR, Afghanistan – Militant attacks killed four Canadian soldiers and wounded 10 Thursday while 21 Afghan civilians died from a suicide car bombing – the latest barrage of violence that has accompanied NATO’s new security mission in southern Afghanistan.Suspected Taliban fighters firing rocket-propelled grenades from a school killed three soldiers and wounded six involved in a security operation with Afghan troops near the village of Pashmul, west of Kandahar city, a NATO statement said.It said NATO and Afghan troops “inflicted severe casualties on the insurgents and disrupted their leadership in the Pashmul area,” but gave no details.Hours earlier, two bombs hidden along a highway, also near Kandahar, killed one soldier and wounded four, said Maj. Scott Lundy, a spokesman for the Canadian military. The bombings occurred three hours apart.In Ottawa, authorities confirmed all the dead and wounded served with the 1st Battalion Princess Patricia’s Canadian Light Infantry. It was Canada’s worst loss since April 22, when four of its soldiers were killed by a roadside bomb, also in the south.Seven NATO soldiers have now been killed since the alliance took over command Sunday in southern Afghanistan from a U.S.-led coalition, beginning the toughest combat mission in NATO’s 57-year history.The NATO force, which has 8,000 soldiers mainly from Canada, Britain, the United States and the Netherlands, had three British soldiers killed in neighboring Helmand province Monday.Increased attacks by Taliban loyalists this year have produced the bloodiest violence since the hard-line regime was toppled nearly five years ago by a U.S.-led offensive. More than 900 people have died since May, most of them militants killed by international or Afghan troops.In Thursday’s worst bloodshed, a suicide car bomber set off a mammoth explosion in a crowded market in Panjwayi, a town about 15 miles from Kandahar, killing 21 civilians and wounding 13. Authorities said some of the dead were children.At least 14 shops were set afire by the blast, which tore a crater about 5 feet across and 1 1/2 feet deep and strewed body parts and twisted metal across the bazaar. The wreckage of the bomb car was flung nearly 100 yards. Bloody caps and shoes lay in the road.”The people who did this use the name of Islam,” Hamayun Khan, 40, said from his hospital bed in Kandahar, suffering shrapnel wounds to his chest and limbs. “They aren’t killing police and coalition forces. They are killing innocent people.”After the bombing, there was heavy fighting on the outskirts of Panjwayi, which was the focus of combat last month between militants and Canadian soldiers.NATO attack helicopters and fighter planes staged air strikes a mile outside town. An Associated Press reporter heard about a dozen big explosions within the space of 20 minutes and could see smoke rising in the sky.In Helmand, meanwhile, Afghan police supported by NATO warplanes attacked a group of Taliban fighters, killing or wounding 22, a provincial police chief said. He said police recovered the bodies of about 10 militants from the battlefield.—Associated Press writer Chris Hawke in Kabul contributed to this report.
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