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3 U.S. soldiers among dead in northern Afghanistan

By Ali Safi, McClatchy Newspapers –

KABUL, Afghanistan — Three American soldiers were among at least nine people who were killed Wednesday when a suicide bomber wearing civilian clothes blew himself up in the northwestern Afghan province of Faryab, local officials said.

The blast, which wounded at least 26 others, occurred near a crowded market in Maimanah, the provincial capital, said Faryab’s governor, Abdul Haq Shafaq. The U.S.-led military coalition said three of its soldiers had been killed it but didn’t specify nationalities; Afghan officials identified them as Americans.

The attack in a usually calm province was the latest in a recent spike in Taliban assaults that appears to mark a reopening of hostilities with the arrival of spring, when warmer weather in Afghanistan tends to lead to greater violence.

A team of coalition soldiers and Afghan policemen was in Maimanah talking to locals when the bomber, traveling on foot, set off the explosion, Shafaq said. He said the soldiers were transported to a nearby coalition base for treatment.

There were conflicting descriptions of the other fatalities. The director of Faryab’s Health Department, Abdul Ali Aleem, said six civilians had been killed and that they, along with 26 wounded, were taken to Maimanah hospital.

However, the provincial police chief, Abdul Khaliq Aaqsay, said two of his officers were among the dead.

The Taliban claimed responsibility for the bombing, saying in a statement that “16 invaders and 12 puppets” were killed, a reference to coalition soldiers and members of Afghanistan’s security forces, respectively. The Taliban typically exaggerate casualty counts.

“The attack was carried out by a lion of the Islamic Emirate,” spokesman Qari Yousuf Ahmadi said, using the name for the Taliban movement.

Wednesday’s bombing followed three attacks Tuesday in the south and east of Afghanistan in which three members of the International Security Assistance Force died. The ISAF said homemade bombs had killed two of the service members, but it wouldn’t provide details of the incidents.

So far this year, 101 coalition troops have been killed in Afghanistan, including 60 Americans, according to the website, which tracks military fatalities.

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