U.S. Soldiers killed in Afghan attack

June 4, 2009 10:13:22 AM PDT
Taliban militants detonated a bomb and opened fire on a vehicle carrying U.S. soldiers on Thursday, killing three of them, as President Barack Obama said he did not want to keep American troops in Afghanistan longer than necessary. The ambush took place not far from the main U.S. base in Bagram, just north of the capital Kabul. It was the third strike by insurgents in the region in less than a week, part of a surge in violence eight years after the U.S invaded to oust the Taliban regime.

Obama made the remarks in Egypt in a speech aimed at healing relations between the United States and Muslims. He said he did not want to establish permanent bases or keep troops in Afghanistan, but that both were currently needed to fight extremists intent on killing as many Americans as they can.

"It is agonizing for America to lose our young men and women," said Obama, who has ordered 21,000 extra troops to Afghanistan, adding to the around 60,000 foreign soldiers already in the country.

Humayun Hamidzada, a spokesman for Afghan President Hamid Karzai, said Obama's statement "reflected the reality."

"We are grateful for the support and sacrifice of the U.S. but we would like to stand on our own two feet as quickly as possible," Hamidzada said.

Thursday's attack took place in Kapisa province, near to the Bagram base that is home to thousands of troops and the U.S. command, the military said in a statement. Three Americans were killed and another soldier, whose nationality was not released, was injured.

Kapisa is considered a stronghold of insurgents loyal to Afghan warlord Gulbuddin Hekmatyar.

In other violence, police found the body of candidate for upcoming provincial elections in Wardak province, west of Kabul, said police chief Khial Baz Sherzai. Suspected Taliban insurgents kidnapped the candidate, Yeiya Mulaye Azhar, 11 days ago, he said.

Afghans are scheduled to go to the polls on Aug. 20 to elect a president and provincial officials.

Militants have urged the country's 30 million people not to vote.

A roadside bomb Wednesday killed four farmers as they returned from the fields in southern Kandahar province, said Abuduulah Khan, deputy provincial police chief. Khan blamed the Taliban for the attack, saying the device was likely meant for the Afghan and international forces who regularly use the road.