Three U.S. soldiers killed in Afghanistan
GHAZNI, Afghanistan – A Taliban spokesman reiterated Sunday that the militants soon will free two sick, female South Korean hostages but said the timing of the release hasn’t yet been decided. The international Red Cross said it had no information about an upcoming release.A roadside bomb blast, meanwhile, killed three U.S. troops in eastern Afghanistan, bringing to five the number of international troops killed over the weekend, officials said.Also Sunday, Pakistani President Gen. Pervez Musharraf addressed more than 600 Afghan and Pakistani tribal leaders at a jirga, or tribal council, aimed at finding ways to stem Afghanistan’s rising bloodshed.Musharraf said the world is “forging ahead” while Pakistan and Afghanistan are confronted with a “particularly dark form” of terrorism he said is fostered by foreign influences.Qari Yousef Ahmadi, the Taliban spokesman, said the two South Korean hostages would be released in part because Taliban leaders were happy with the progress being made in face-to-face talks between two Taliban leaders and South Korean negotiators.”The time hasn’t been decided. It could be today,” Ahmadi said of the release, reiterating an announcement he first made on Saturday.The reliability of Ahmadi’s information is questionable. Some of his reports turn out to be true but some do not.Franz Rauchenstein, an official with the International Committee of the Red Cross, said Sunday he had no information about “when and how and where these hostages are going to be released,” referring to the two women. Past releases in other hostage situations have been coordinated through the Red Cross.Two Taliban leaders and four South Korean officials met Saturday for a second day of face-to-face talks. The Taliban kidnapped 23 South Koreans, all volunteers from a church group, last month and later executed two male captives by gunfire.Taliban leaders have demanded that 21 militant prisoners be released in exchange for the Koreans’ lives, though the government has said it won’t release any prisoners.The two Taliban leaders said Saturday that the Koreans would “definitely” be released, possibly as soon as “today or tomorrow,” though South Korea downplayed that claim, saying it didn’t think a release would come so quickly.Talks lasted several hours on Saturday, though no new negotiations were held Sunday morning and it wasn’t clear that any would be held in person the rest of the day.Marajudin Pathan, the local governor, said late Saturday that negotiators had not discussed freeing the two women.”Qari Ahmadi (the Taliban spokesman) is somewhere in Pakistan,” Pathan said. “He’s just running his mouth. They (the Taliban) are always giving contradictory statements.”Pathan said he did not think the hostage crisis would be resolved by acceding to Taliban demands to release their imprisoned militants, “but we’ll see if it’s by some other avenue.” He refused to specify if that meant a ransom payment, though he has said previously he thought money would resolve the situation.Separately, three troops were engaged in combat operations in Nangarhar province when the roadside bomb hit their vehicle Sunday, a statement from the U.S.-led coalition said. A civilian interpreter also was killed.The coalition did not announce the nationalities of the soldiers, though Noor Agha Zuwak, the spokesman for the Nangarhar governor, identified the troops as American. The majority of troops in eastern Afghanistan are from the U.S.Elsewhere, one NATO soldier was killed and several others wounded in an attack Saturday in the south, NATO’s International Security Assistance Force said in a statement Sunday.Another NATO soldier was killed and two were wounded when a roadside bomb struck their vehicle during a patrol Saturday in eastern Afghanistan, ISAF said.ISAF did not give any further details such as the exact locations of the two incidents or the nationalities of the soldiers.The five deaths brings to at least 127 the number of international troops killed in Afghanistan this year, including at least 61 Americans, according an Associated Press count.Separately in southern Uruzgan province, Taliban militants attacked a U.S. military base Saturday evening for the third time this week in what the U.S.-led coalition said might be a rehearsal for a future attempt to overrun the outpost.”Several” suspected Taliban were killed Saturday evening in the latest attack on Firebase Anaconda, in addition to four that were killed in an earlier attack on the base Saturday, the coalition said.Insurgents first attacked the base in a rare frontal attack on Tuesday. The military had said that 23 were killed in that incident but late Saturday officials raised the number believed killed to 50.Coalition spokeswoman Army Capt. Vanessa R. Bowman said the Taliban attacks are expected “to culminate with a large full-scale attack in the near future.”In Helmand province, Afghan army and NATO forces clashed with Taliban militants on Saturday, and the ensuing battle and airstrikes left seven Taliban dead, said Eizatullah Khan, chief of Sangin district.
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