KABUL (AP) — NATO has raised the number of service members killed in Afghanistan to six, including three Americans.
That makes Monday the deadliest day for the international force in more than two months, underscoring warnings that casualties will increase as more foreign troops stream into the country and step up efforts against the Taliban.
U.S. military spokesman Col. Wayne Shanks says the Americans died when they were caught up in a firefight with militants during an “operational patrol” in southern Afghanistan.
France says one of its sergeants was killed during a clash while patrolling with Afghans in Alasay, a valley largely under insurgent control.
NATO says two more service members were killed — one in eastern Afghanistan and another in the south. But it hasn’t given their nationalities.
THIS IS A BREAKING NEWS UPDATE. Check back soon for further information. AP’s earlier story is below.
KABUL (AP) — Three U.S. service members were killed Monday in fighting in southern Afghanistan, underscoring the unrelenting violence in the Taliban heartland as the Obama administration steps up efforts to rout the insurgents.
NATO said the Americans were killed in an engagement with enemy forces but gave no more details.
The deaths raised to at least 10 the number of U.S. service members killed in Afghanistan so far this year, according to an Associated Press tally.
Officials said earlier Monday that bombs killed another American service member and two Afghan road construction workers in separate attacks Sunday in southern Afghanistan.
The southern half of the country has frequently been hit by attacks as the U.S. military builds up its presence in the area. Most of the 30,000 additional American troops that President Barack Obama has ordered to Afghanistan will be deployed there.
A vehicle carrying the road crew hit a roadside bomb Sunday in the Nawa district in Helmand province, according to the Interior Ministry. It said two workers were killed, and two were wounded.
The attack occurred a day after a British correspondent and a U.S. Marine were killed by a roadside bomb in the same area.
Sunday Mirror journalist Rupert Hamer, 39, was the first British journalist killed in the conflict.
Hamer and photographer Philip Coburn, 43, were accompanying a U.S. Marine patrol Saturday when their vehicle was hit by a makeshift bomb near the village of Nawa, the British Defense Ministry said. Coburn was seriously wounded.
Afghan President Hamid Karzai on Monday expressed condolences to Hamer’s family as well as to the British media. Karzai said he appreciated the “brave journalists” who risk their lives in Helmand.
Obama has said U.S. troops will start withdrawing from Afghanistan in July 2011, and American and Afghan officials already are preparing for the transition.
The Afghan government has announced plans to take over the U.S.-run prison at the Bagram air base. No date has been set for the handover, but officials have said it could occur by the end of the year.
The U.S. military opened a new prison to replace the original facility, which was tainted by allegations of human rights abuses.
Navy Vice Adm. Robert Harward, the commander of U.S. detainee operations in Afghanistan, said some prisoners could be held by the U.S. in so-called field detention sites after the handover, but they would be turned over to the Afghans upon request.
He also said the cases of several non-Afghans in U.S. custody would be reviewed. There are about 750 inmates at Bagram.
“Those will be all under Afghan operations and any U.S. detention will fall under that system,” he said at a news conference.