Roadside Bomb Kills Four Soldiers in Afghanistan
RENEE MONTAGNE, host:
Four US soldiers were killed yesterday and three wounded in a roadside bomb attack in southern Afghanistan. And near the capital city of Kabul, two US Embassy workers were injured in another blast that hit their vehicle. The troop deaths bring the number of Americans killed in Afghanistan this year to 47, making it the worst period since American troops arrived in Afghanistan in 2001. Knight-Ridder newspaper reporter Jonathan Landay recently traveled with US troops in the same area where the soldiers were killed, and he joins us from Kabul.
Tell us what you can about these attacks.
Mr. JONATHAN LANDAY (Knight-Ridder): These attacks are continuations of the guerrilla-style war being waged by the Taliban, the radical Islamic movement that was swept from power here by the US-led intervention in 2001. We have seen a resurgence in the Taliban since the fighting season began in March, when the snows melted in the passes, and ostensibly, at least the view of US commanders is that this violence, which is aimed not only at US troops but at government officials, at Afghan police and army, as well as moderate Muslim clergy, are aimed at disrupting elections next month for the lower house of parliament and provincial councils.
MONTAGNE: And I understand that two pro-government clerics were also killed over the weekend in the south of the country. What can you tell us about that?
Mr. LANDAY: That's correct. The south and east of the country is where most of the Taliban activity is confined. In fact, we heard today that another moderate cleric, a very senior moderate cleric in the southern city of Kandahar was gunned down, and this is apparently part of a tactic that's intended to warn people off from cooperating with the government of President Hamid Karzai, warn people off from cooperating with the United States and NATO troops who are here. Whether or not it's going to have an effect, we wait to see. But most people believe that the elections will go ahead as scheduled, that there's enough security to prevent the Taliban from disrupting them.
And indeed, over the last day or so, there have been statements coming out from Taliban spokesmen that they do not intend to disrupt the elections. This could either indicate that the Taliban are aware of a lot of popular support for the elections and don't want to alienate people, or it could indicate that they're fully aware of the enormous security preparations that are being made for these elections and have decided that they are not going to risk sustaining large numbers of casualties, which they do every time they resort to a face-to-face conflict with either the US forces or NATO.
MONTAGNE: Jonathan Landay speaking from Kabul on a satellite phone. He's the senior national security correspondent for Knight-Ridder.
Thanks very much.
Mr. LANDAY: My pleasure.
MONTAGNE: This is NPR News.
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