Taliban attack on coalition base in Afghanistan kills U.S., Canadian soldiers
KANDAHAR, Afghanistan – Taliban militants launched a rare attack on a coalition base in southern Afghanistan Wednesday, killing an American and a Canadian soldier and sparking fierce U.S.-led retaliation that left 32 insurgents dead in the bloodiest fighting in months.The attack came a day after at least 10 people were killed in two separate roadside bombings and reflected a growing intensity of militant assaults after the Taliban warned of a renewed offensive this year.”Over the last five or six weeks there have been various proven attacks mainly at night by the Taliban on that base, but I think it is fair to say this is the largest we have seen thus far,” British spokesman Col. Chris Vernon told reporters in Kandahar.The battle began hours after Taliban insurgents ambushed an Afghan supply convoy as it returned to the remote forward operating base late Tuesday, killing eight Afghan soldiers, Vernon said.U.S. and British warplanes and helicopters were called in to provide air support and a Canadian quick reaction force was sent from Kandahar to the base, where a small contingent of American and Canadian soldiers are stationed with Afghan troops in the Sangin district of the volatile Helmand province.Early Wednesday, the base came under a “significant Taliban attack,” during which the Canadian and American soldiers were killed, Vernon said. At least five coalition troops were wounded, including three Canadians and an American, officials said.Twelve Taliban militants also died in the fighting, while 20 others were killed after coalition aircraft and artillery fire forced them to flee into the desert.The U.S. military said two compounds at a Taliban base were destroyed after the discovery of large caches of weapons, bombs and ammunition. All were blown up, “causing multiple secondary explosions and destroying the compound and all enemy military equipment inside,” the military said.”The capturing of these two compounds with boots on the ground produced significant intelligence and allows us to continue to put pressure on the enemy,” U.S. Brig. Gen. Anthony J. Tata added.The U.S. military did not release the name of the slain American soldier, but the dead Canadian was identified as Pvt. Robert Costall of the 1st Battalion of the Princess Patricia’s Canadian Light Infantry, based in Edmonton, Alberta.The 22-year-old Canadian was a new father who went to Afghanistan to “make a difference,” said his aunt, Colleen McBain.The American’s death brought to 223 the number of U.S. service members killed in and around Afghanistan since the ouster of the Taliban in 2001. Twelve Canadians have been killed in the turbulent country since 2002, according to the Canadian Press news agency.In other violence, suspected Taliban rebels attacked a police checkpoint in Kandahar late Tuesday, killing two officers and wounding four, police commander Abdul Nazik said, adding that insurgents had tried to occupy the post but were forced to flee.Another suspected Taliban militant was killed in southern Afghanistan’s Zabul province when a bomb he was planting on a roadside exploded prematurely, police chief Ghulam Nabi Malakhail said.Also Tuesday, a roadside bomb killed six Afghan soldiers on a road in Helmand province, and four private security workers – a Namibian and three Afghans – were killed elsewhere in the south in attacks blamed on Taliban rebels.Police said they also foiled an attempted suicide attack in Kandahar, pursuing two suspected bombers who eventually blew themselves up but caused no other casualties.Fighting has spiked in southern Afghanistan in the past year, leaving swaths of it off-limits to aid workers and raising concerns for the country’s fragile democracy.Helmand also is Afghanistan’s main opium poppy-growing region and fears of widespread violence have risen since an aggressive poppy eradication campaign started in recent weeks.Rugged mountains in the province are popular hiding places for Taliban rebels, many of whom are believed to slip back and forth across the province’s largely unguarded border with Pakistan.More than 3,000 British troops are readying to take control of the volatile area.Vail, Colorado
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