6 U.S. troops killed near Afghanistan airport in deadliest attack since August

KABUL - The suicide attack on U.S. troops that killed six near Afghanistan's Bagram airport was the deadliest assault on international forces since August.

See Full Article

Two U.S. troops and an Afghan were also wounded when the bomber rammed an explosives-laden motorcycle into a joint NATO-Afghan patrol on Monday.

The soldiers were targeted as they moved through a village near Bagram Airfield, the largest U.S. military facility in Afghanistan, NATO and Afghan officials said. The Taliban claimed responsibility.

A U.S. official confirmed that six American troops were killed and two were wounded. An Afghan was also wounded. The official was not authorized to discuss the incident publicly so spoke on condition of anonymity.

"Our heartfelt sympathies go out to the families and friends of those affected in this tragic incident, especially during this holiday season," U.S. Army Brig. Gen. William Shoffner, head of public affairs at NATO's Resolute Support base in the Afghan capital Kabul, said in a statement.

In New York, Police Commissioner William Bratton said Monday that a New York City police detective, Joseph Lemm, was one of the six American killed in the attack.

Lemm was a 15-year-old veteran of the New York Police Department and worked in the Bronx Warrant Squad. Bratton says Lemm served in the U.S. National Guard and, while a member of the police force, he had been deployed twice to Afghanistan and once to Iraq. He leaves behind a wife and three children.

In Washington, White House press secretary Josh Earnest said the nation's thoughts and prayers are with the victims, their families and their loved ones, and that the U.S. will continue to work jointly with Afghans to promote peace and stability in their country.

Secretary of Defence Ash Carter in statement called the attack "a painful reminder of the dangers our troops face every day in Afghanistan."

It was the deadliest attack on foreign troops in four months. On Aug. 22, three American contractors with the Resolute Support base were killed in a suicide attack in Kabul. On Aug. 7 and 8, Kabul was the scene of three insurgent attacks within 24 hours that left at least 35 people dead. One of the attacks, on a U.S. special operations forces base outside Kabul, killed one U.S soldier and eight Afghan civilian contractors.

In the year since the international drawdown, the Taliban insurgency has intensified. Although the combat mission ended last year, around 9,800 U.S. troops and almost 4,000 NATO forces remain in Afghanistan. They have a mandate to "train, assist and advise" their Afghan counterparts, who are now effectively fighting alone a battle-hardened Taliban.

Monday's attack came as Taliban fighters and government forces battled for control of a strategic district in the southern province of Helmand after it was overrun by insurgents, delivering a serious blow to the government's thinly spread and exhausted forces.

Mohammad Jan Rasulyar, Helmand's deputy governor, said insurgents took control of Sangin district late Sunday.

Rasulyar had taken the unusual step of alerting Afghan President Ashraf Ghani to the dire security situation and requesting urgent reinforcements through an open letter posted on Facebook on Sunday, saying that he had not been able to make contact through other means.

"We had to take to social media to reach you as Helmand is falling into the hands of the enemy and it requires your immediate attention," Rasulyar wrote in his Facebook post to Ghani.

On Monday, Defence Ministry spokesman Dawlat Waziri said Afghan Army commandoes and special forces had arrived in Sangin to push a counter-offensive. He told reporters the Afghan air force had conducted 160 combat and transport flights over Sangin in the past 48 hours.

Helmand is an important Taliban base as it produces most of the world's opium, a crop that helps fund the insurgency.

Sangin district has bounced in and out of Taliban control for some years, and fighting there has produced some of the highest casualty counts among Afghan and international forces in 14 years of war.

British forces saw intensive fighting there at the height of the war in 2006 and 2007. Among the 450 British troops killed during the country's combat mission in Afghanistan, more than 100 died in Sangin. In 2008, a battalion of U.S. Marines arrived in Helmand, followed a year later by the first wave of President Barack Obama's "surge" effort against the Taliban, comprising 11,000 Marines who conducted operations across the province.

The head of Helmand's provincial council, Muhammad Kareem Atal, said about 65 per cent of Helmand is now under Taliban control. "In every district either we are stepping back or we are handing territory over to Taliban, but still, until now, no serious action has been taken," he said, referring to a perceived lack of support from the capital.

Districts across Helmand, including Nad Ali, Kajaki, Musa Qala, Naw Zad, Gereshk and Garmser, have all been threatened by Taliban takeover in recent months. Insurgents are also believed to be dug in on the outskirts of the provincial capital, Lashkar Gah.

Taliban fighters, sometimes working with other insurgent groups like the Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan, have managed to overrun many districts across the country this year, and also staged a three-day takeover of the major northern city of Kunduz. They rarely hold territory for more than a few hours or days, but the impact on the morale of Afghan forces, and people, is substantial.

Atal said more than 2,000 security forces personnel had been killed fighting in Helmand in 2015. He said a major reason Afghan forces were "losing" was the large number of soldiers and police deserting their posts in the face of the Taliban onslaught.

Fighting in Afghanistan has intensified since the announcement in late July that the founder and leader of the Taliban, Mullah Mohammad Omar, had been dead for more than two years. His deputy, Mullah Akhtar Mansoor, succeeded him, causing internal ructions and delaying the likelihood that a peace dialogue with the Afghan government, halted after the announcement of Mullah Omar's death, will restart in the foreseeable future.

The expected winter lull in fighting has not yet taken place in the warmer southern provinces. U.S. and Afghan military leaders say they are expecting a tough fight throughout 2016.

The Pentagon released a report last week warning that the security situation in Afghanistan would deteriorate as a "resilient Taliban-led insurgency remains an enduring threat to U.S., coalition, and Afghan forces, as well as to the Afghan people."

-----

Associated Press writers Mirwais Khan in Kandahar, Afghanistan, and Humayoon Babur and Amir Shah in Kabul and Lolita C. Baldor in Washington contributed to this story.



Advertisements

Latest Canada & World News

  • Efforts to stop anonymous sources clash with U.S. 1st Amendment

    World News CTV News
    President Donald Trump railed against the news media Friday, saying reporters shouldn't be allowed to use anonymous sources. He said he's been a target of unrelenting criticism by unnamed people, and he predicted that negative stories would "dry up like you've never seen before" if anonymous sources were jettisoned. Source
  • Thousands of northern B.C. patients' X-rays, CT scans and ultrasounds may have been misread

    Canada News CBC News
    Thousands of patients in northwestern B.C. are being told their X-ray, CT scan and ultrasound results may have been improperly analysed. The images were taken at Terrace's Mills Memorial Hospital between October, 2016 and January, 2017. Source
  • Quebec broadens inquiry into Montreal police force

    Canada News CTV News
    MONTREAL -- The Quebec government is broadening its investigation into allegations of corruption and wrongdoing within the Montreal police force. Public Security Minister Martin Coiteux says municipal forces from Quebec City, Longueuil and Gatineau will help provincial police because the number of allegations has risen in recent days. Source
  • U.S. to stop using 'ISIL' in favour of 'ISIS'

    World News CTV News
    WASHINGTON -- The change of U.S. administrations has produced a change of terminology in the war against the Islamic State group. Out goes the name preferred by the Obama administration: the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant, or ISIL. Source
  • Authorities say fire was intentionally set at Florida mosque

    World News CTV News
    TAMPA, Fla. -- An intentionally set fire damaged a prayer hall at a Tampa-area mosque early Friday, investigators said. The arson occurred at the Islamic Society of New Tampa, Hillsborough County Fire Rescue said in a news release. Source
  • Alexandru Radita's parents guilty of first-degree murder in 15-year-old son's death

    Canada News Toronto Sun
    Rodica and Emil Radita intentionally killed their teenage son by withholding critical life-saving medical attention, a judge ruled Friday. Justice Karen Horner said both parents were guilty of first-degree murder in the death of 15-year-old Alexandru. Source
  • Winter Stations bring art and wonder to Toronto's Beach waterfront

    Canada News CBC News
    A design contest open to artists, designers, architects and landscape architects has transformed the winter waterfront of Toronto's Beach area. Here's a look at the winning entries, all constructed around lifeguard stands, seen on a morning when dense fog rolled in from Lake Ontario. Source
  • Charlie Angus registers with Elections Canada as NDP leadership candidate

    Canada News Toronto Sun
    Local MP Charlie Angus has officially registered as a candidate in the race for the NDP leader, making him the second person to officially do so after fellow MP Peter Julian. Elections Canada updated their list of registered candidates in the NDP leadership this week, to show that Angus submitted his paperwork on Feb. Source
  • 'Like Monty Python': N.B. drug conviction set aside after English woman tried in French

    Canada News CTV News
    FREDERICTON -- A New Brunswick court has set aside a woman's drug trafficking conviction after her trial was mistakenly conducted in French for no apparent reason. "I hate to say it, but it sounds like a Monty Python movie," said John McEvoy, a law professor at the University of New Brunswick. Source
  • Accused beauty queen killer not on cops’ ‘radar’

    World News Toronto Sun
    Ryan Alexander Duke looked shocked and haggard. Charged with first-degree murder in the cold-case slaying of beauty queen-turned-teacher Tara Grinstead, Duke’s arrest ended a long odyssey for her friends, family - and detectives. In court, he looked exhausted and disheveled. Source