KABUL, Afghanistan – A U.S. paratrooper and a British soldier died in attacks Saturday as Afghan officials prepared to announce final results from last month’s historic legislative elections amid some of the worst bloodshed since the polls.
Violence over the last week killed 23 people, including 14 suspected militants and two worshippers dragged from a mosque and shot, underlining the challenges of bringing stability and strengthening Afghanistan’s fledgling democracy four years after the ouster of the Taliban.
Election organizers plan to release the final list of newly elected legislators in the next few days, said Aleem Siddique, a spokesman for the election commission. The announcement has been delayed by widespread fraud that undermined the polls’ legitimacy.
Human rights advocates warn that at least half of those listed as provisional winners are former warlords or others still linked to armed groups responsible for much of the violence during the country’s quarter-century of war.
In the latest fighting, an American paratrooper was killed Saturday when his patrol came under fire in volatile eastern Khost province, a U.S. military statement said.
American forces responded with small-arms fire, artillery and air attacks, chasing off the militants. It was not immediately clear if any of the assailants were killed.
The death brought to 203 the number of U.S. troops killed in and around Afghanistan since a U.S.-led coalition toppled the Taliban’s hard-line Islamic regime in late 2001 after it refused to close al-Qaida bases and turn over
Osama bin Laden following the Sept. 11 terror attacks.
In the north, gunmen attacked
NATO-led peacekeepers as they patrolled in the city of Mazar-e-Sharif on Saturday, killing one British soldier and wounding five others, Britain’s Ministry of Defense said.
Security forces cordoned off the area and arrested four suspects, said Capt. Michele Cortese, a spokesman at the NATO force’s headquarters in Kabul.
Mazar-e-Sharif has been considered relatively safe because Taliban loyalists are not believed to operate there and it was not immediately clear what motivated the attack.
In Kabul, security forces discovered a large weapons cache, including rocket-propelled grenades, anti-tank missiles and bombs, according to a statement by the NATO force.
The U.S. military reported that American and Afghan troops fought three battles with militants in southern Uruzgan province Thursday after they were attacked with assault rifles, mortars and rocket-propelled grenades.
Attack aircraft rushed to the area and pounded rebel positions. The fighting killed 13 militants and an Afghan soldier, while a U.S. soldier and four Afghan troops were wounded.
On Friday, U.S. troops attacked a group of militants as they planted a roadside bomb in eastern Paktika province, capturing two and killing one as he tried to flee, another U.S. statement said.
In other violence, suspected Taliban rebels fired at a vehicle late Friday in southern Helmand province and killed a boy and two brothers, one of whom was a prominent pro-government figure, said Ghulam Muhiddin, a local official.
Also Friday, militants attacked Muslim worshippers in two provinces near the border with Pakistan, officials said. In Paktia, gunmen dragged two men from their prayers in a mosque and killed both outside. In neighboring Khost, attackers shot a tribal elder to death as he prayed.
Fighting since January has killed nearly 1,500 people, the most in any year since the Taliban’s fall.
U.S. military commanders predicted a rise in violence in the weeks following the parliamentary elections, but say they expect fighting to ease during winter as heavy snow blocks high mountain passes used by insurgents.