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Four U.S. Troops Killed in Afghanistan

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KABUL, Afghanistan (AP) _ Four U.S. troops were killed in fighting in eastern and southern Afghanistan on Sunday, and a former guerrilla leader who battled Soviet invaders decades ago was killed by a roadside bomb in the country’s north.

Three of the U.S. casualties died in insurgent attacks and one was killed by a homemade bomb, NATO said.

The deaths bring the number of international forces killed in Afghanistan this month to 42, including 28 Americans, according to a count by The Associated Press. Sixty-six American troops were killed in July, making it the deadliest month for U.S. forces in Afghanistan since the 2001 invasion.

The exact places where the casualties occurred were not given, although heavy fighting was reported in Jaji district of eastern Paktiya province, about 12 miles (20 kilometers) from the border with Pakistan.

Afghan army and border police joined U.S. troops in ground fighting, while attack helicopters provided air support, according to Afghan commanders. An unknown number of militants were killed, they said.

In the country’s north, insurgents using a bomb detonated by remote control destroyed the vehicle in which former guerrilla commander Salaam Pahlawan was traveling as he made his way Saturday to government offices in Faryab province’s Al Mar district, said provincial police commander Khalil Andarbi.

The attack also killed two of Pahlawan’s sons, ages 5 and 10, and two bodyguards, Andarbi said.

He said Pahlawan had been commander of anti-Soviet forces in the district but had lately been serving in an advisory role as a tribal elder. Many surviving veterans of the 1979-1989 Soviet invasion have been targeted by the Taliban for allying themselves with the government in Kabul.

One of the most famous anti-Soviet commanders, Ahmad Shah Massoud, was killed in an al-Qaida suicide bombing two days before the Sept. 11, 2001 attacks, a time when the Taliban was providing safe haven for the terrorist group.

In western Afghanistan’s Herat province, insurgents Saturday ambushed a convoy carrying a provincial council member running for a seat in next month’s elections for the national parliament, killing the man’s brother, said Raouf Ahmedi, police spokesman for western Afghanistan.

Abdul Hadi Jamshadi’s bodyguards returned fire, but Ahmedi said it wasn’t known whether any militants were killed.

The attack appeared to be part of a campaign of terror and intimidation being waged by the Taliban in hopes of sabotaging the Sept. 18 elections.

Fighting around the country on Saturday and Sunday killed five Afghan soldiers and at least 17 militants, according to the defense and interior ministries. Five of the insurgents were killed when roadside bombs they were trying to plant exploded, while a joint NATO-Afghan operation in the southern province of Zabul resulted in the death of a senior Taliban commander, Sandar Yar, according to a provincial government statement.

Insurgents in Kandahar province, one of Afghanistan’s most violent, killed the head of a private security company Saturday, while one civilian was killed and five wounded by a land mine in Herat’s Anjil district.

President Hamid Karzai has ordered such companies to cease operating in Afghanistan within four months, posing a challenge to the U.S. and its allies who rely heavily on contractors to guard supply convoys, installations and development projects.

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