Monday, July 20, 2009

Four US Troops Killed in Afghanistan; July Becomes Deadliest Month for Occupation Forces

Jul 20, 3:30 PM EDT

July becomes deadliest month for US in Afghanistan

Associated Press Writer

KABUL (AP) -- Four Americans were killed Monday when a roadside bomb exploded in eastern Afghanistan, NATO said, making July the deadliest month for U.S. troops in this war.

A NATO statement did not give nationalities, but U.S. spokesman Lt. Robert Carr confirmed that all four were Americans. The deaths bring to 55 the number of international service members killed in July, also the deadliest month for NATO forces.

At least 30 U.S. troops have died this month - two more than the toll for June 2008, which had been the deadliest month for the American force in Afghanistan.

Meanwhile, a British fighter jet crashed at NATO's largest base in southern Afghanistan on Monday, the second aircraft to go down there in two days.

The Royal Air Force GR4 Tornado crashed inside Kandahar Airfield during takeoff at 7:20 a.m., said Capt. Ruben Hoornveld, a spokesman for the NATO-led force. The crew's two members ejected and were being treated for injuries at the base hospital.

The Tornado is the fourth aircraft to crash down in Afghanistan in three days and the sixth this month. Military officials say there doesn't appear to be a common reason for the spate of crashes.

There was no indication that insurgent activity caused the latest crash, Hoornveld said, but officials could not immediately say why the plane went down. The jet caught fire and emergency personnel responded.

In the northern province of Kunduz, meanwhile, German forces killed three Afghan civilians Sunday when they fired on a pickup truck they suspected contained Taliban fighters, provincial governor Mohammad Omar said.

The German army said two civilians were killed and two seriously wounded and that the forces opened fire because the vehicle was approaching at high speed and ignored warning shots. It wasn't clear why the death tolls differed.

German and Afghan forces were conducting an operation Sunday in the Chahar Dara district when they observed two Taliban fighters entering a minivan, Omar said. When the minivan later drove toward the German forces, they opened fire, he said, but it appeared the Taliban may have exited the vehicle.

In the west, in Farah province, a van carrying civilians hit a roadside bomb Sunday, killing 11 people aboard, including a child and his mother, said Mohammad Younis Rasouli, the deputy governor.

A British soldier was killed by an explosion Sunday while on a foot patrol in the Sangin region of Helmand province, the British Ministry of Defense said. At least 16 British troops have died in Afghanistan in July, a death toll that has sparked an outcry in Britain.

On Sunday, a Russian-owned civilian Mi-8 helicopter crashed at Kandahar Air Base, killing 16 people on board.

Hoornveld called the two crashes "coincidence."

Two aircraft also went down Saturday. A U.S. Air Force F-15E Strike Eagle fighter jet crashed in central Afghanistan, killing two crew members. U.S. officials say insurgent fire did not bring down the plane. A U.S. helicopter also made what the military calls a "hard landing" the same day. Several troops were injured.

Taliban militants downed a civilian Mi-6 transport helicopter last week in southern Afghanistan, killing six Ukrainian civilians on board and an Afghan child on the ground. Earlier in July, two Canadian soldiers and one British trooper were killed in a helicopter crash in Zabul. Officials said the crash did not appear to be caused by hostile fire.

A U.S. military spokeswoman in Kabul, Lt. Cmdr. Christine Sidenstricker, said she has not heard anything to suggest a common thread tying the crashes together. She noted that several types of aircraft were involved.

"I don't think they're related," she said. "There really hasn't been a lot of similarity between the events except they all happen to be aircraft. In most cases it has not been the result of enemy activity; it has been mechanical problems or other issues."

Last year there were only about 30,000 U.S. troops in the country at this time. Today there is double that, and many more U.S. aircraft. Two of the six recent incidents involved American aircraft.

Associated Press writer Rahim Faiez contributed to this report.

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