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Violence surges across Afghanistan, killing at least 18

By Laura King and Aimal Yaqubi, Los Angeles Times –

KABUL, Afghanistan — Violence across Afghanistan killed at least 18 people in 24 hours, officials said Thursday, including an American service member shot by an Afghan soldier, two NATO troops who died in a roadside bombing and three women apparently caught in crossfire during a battle between coalition forces and insurgents in the country’s east.

Also killed were four Afghan police officers who were slain in an attack on their outpost in northern Afghanistan and eight insurgents who were killed by Afghan police as they were trying to plant a roadside bomb in Kandahar province.

The advent of warmer weather, when snow melts in the mountain passes, traditionally brings an increase in fighting, which often leaves civilians vulnerable as well. In advance of a NATO summit next month in Chicago, NATO officials have described a broad improvement in security, but the violence Thursday suggests that many areas of the country remain volatile.

U.S. military officials said the latest deadly “insider” shooting, a member of the Afghan security forces turning a weapon on Western mentors, took place in southern Afghanistan on Wednesday evening. In addition to the American service member who was killed, the assailant died in return fire from coalition troops.

In Kandahar province’s Panjwayi district, two NATO troops were killed in a roadside bombing Thursday in which a third Western service member also was wounded, provincial spokesman Ahmad Javed Faisal said. Last month, Panjwayi, a district on the outskirts of Kandahar city, was the scene of a shooting rampage in which an American Army sergeant has been accused of killing 17 civilians.

Also Thursday, officials in Wardak province, outside the capital, Kabul, said a mortar shell hit a residential house during a clash between Western troops and insurgents in the Chak district, killing three women and injuring four others. A provincial spokesman, Shahidullah Shahid, said it was not clear which side the mortar shell had come from. The NATO force said it was investigating.

In the northern province of Badakhshan, insurgents staged a fierce attack on an Afghan border police checkpoint in the Wardoj district, killing four officers and abducting 16 others late Wednesday, said Shamul Rahman, the province’s deputy governor. The Taliban claimed responsibility for the attack.

As temperatures have risen, insurgents have been moving fighters and weaponry from Pakistan. In the Spin Boldak district of Kandahar province, near the Pakistan frontier, Afghan border police said they surprised and killed a group of eight insurgents planting an IED, or improvised explosive device.

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