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3 British troops killed in southern Afghanistan | ASHARQ AL-AWSAT English Archive 2005 -2017
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KABUL (AP) – Three British paratroopers were killed in a Taliban attack on their patrol in southern Afghanistan, officials said Friday, raising the number of international troops slain in the first week of August to 18.

NATO and the British government said the soldiers’ armored vehicle was hit by a roadside bomb north of Lashkar Gah in Helmand Province on Thursday before insurgents opened fire.

The soldiers fired back, but the three were killed. Attacks killed at least 75 troops from the U.S. and other international military forces in July, the highest death toll for a single month since 2001, according to military reports.

Thousands of additional U.S. Marines have been deployed to southern Afghanistan, the Taliban’s heartland, in an attempt to reverse the militants’ gains and enable for the Aug. 20 elections to take place.

President Hamid Karzai, the leading candidate, held his first major campaign rally in the capital Friday, drawing thousands of cheering supporters, many members of the Shiite Muslim Hazara minority.

Hazaras, believed to make up more than 10 percent of the population, voted for Karzai in the country’s last election. He has courted them by appointing Hazara officials to important ministries and other government posts.

Karzai was flanked at the heavily guarded rally by his two vice-presidential candidates; Mohammad Qasim Fahim, an ethnic Tajik strongman who was a commander of the Northern Alliance that helped oust the Taliban in 2001, and Hazara leader Karim Khalili, currently the second vice president.

Karzai was long seen as the inevitable winner but Abdullah Abdullah, a former foreign minister, has emerged as Karzai’s top challenger and appears to have closed at least part of the gap with a campaign focusing on government mismanagement, corruption and rising violence.

NATO’s new secretary-general said the alliance need more troops in Afghanistan if the mission is to be successful.

Secretary-General Anders Fogh Rasmussen told the BBC from Afghanistan that NATO progress in fighting the Taliban insurgents in southern Afghanistan this summer has come because troop levels in the region have increased.

U.S. officials have said that commanders are likely to ask for more troops after they complete a report on how to turn the war in Afghanistan around.

Afghan officials said roadside bombs had killed five policemen and an Afghan guard in the south, the center of the Taliban-led insurgency, where thousands of new U.S. and British forces are trying to secure roads and population centers ahead of the Aug. 20 presidential election.

The insurgents have pledged to disrupt the vote and have dramatically increased their use of roadside bombs against foreign and Afghan forces.

The policemen were killed when their vehicle hit a buried bomb in Kandahar’s Arghandab district late Thursday, said Abdul Jabar, the district chief.

Another blast Friday in Kandahar’s Zhari district killed an Afghan guard escorting a NATO supply convoy, said Niaz Mohammad Sarhadi, a local official. Four other guards were wounded, he said.

An airstrike in Zabul, another southern province, killed three suspected militants who were planting a bomb on a road Thursday, said Ghulam Jelani Farahi, Zabul’s deputy provincial police chief.