Two U.S. servicemen were killed in an ambush in lawless southwest Afghanistan on Saturday, as an upsurge in violence continued to sweep this country and put the lives of U.S. and other outside military forces at risk.
One U.S. special operations soldier and one U.S. airman were killed when their four-vehicle reconnaissance patrol was ambushed near the town of Gereshk, about 60 miles west of the city of Kandahar. Kandahar was the last stronghold of the Taliban regime, which a U.S.-led coalition ousted in late 2001.
The names of the victims were not immediately released, and details of the encounter were scarce. One other soldier was wounded.
The combat fatalities brought to 28 the number of U.S. troops killed in action in Afghanistan since the war on terrorism began after the Sept. 11 attacks. An additional 34 have been killed in fatal accidents, including six members of an Air Force rescue team killed in a helicopter crash March 23.
Earlier Saturday, a special operations squad came under fire northwest of Kandahar, prompting the Norwegian air force to send in jet fighters for air support.
The incidents point up the continuing risks that soldiers face in confronting Taliban and Al Qaeda remnants along Afghanistan's border with Pakistan.
A water engineer with the International Committee of the Red Cross was killed Thursday when a two-car convoy in which he was riding from Tarin Kowt to Kandahar was stopped by armed men. Ricardo Munguia was singled out from the Afghan passengers and killed by the attackers, apparently because he was a foreigner.
This month, the U.S. military mounted Operation Valiant Strike in the same region to root out remnants of the Taliban and Al Qaeda.
Made up of about 600 soldiers, the operation began shortly after the capture of major Al Qaeda operative Khalid Shaikh Mohammed in Pakistan, giving rise to speculation that the team was acting on intelligence gleaned from his capture.
Army spokesmen, however, insisted that the operation was routine, much like a dozen or so others during the last several months.