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U.S. Soldier Slain in Afghanistan

From Associated Press

An attack on an observation post killed an American soldier in Khowst province, the U.S. military said Wednesday.

The Pentagon said Spc. Wesley R. Wells, 21, of Libertyville, Ill., died Monday, the same day that mortar fire killed two U.S. soldiers in Paktika province. U.S. forces said they killed nine militants in the Paktika attack.

The deaths came amid a flurry of attacks that also have wounded more than a dozen Americans in the run-up to an Oct. 9 presidential election, the first in the nation where the Taliban regime was ousted by a U.S.-led invasion in 2001.

A former Taliban commander was among a group of 11 prisoners who arrived home Wednesday from the U.S. prison at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba. Also, 10 detainees were transferred from Afghanistan to the U.S. naval base, the Pentagon said.

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A U.S. military spokesman said the prisoners sent back to Afghanistan were released at the Afghan government’s request.

“The prisoners have shown their strong support for the peace-building and reconstruction process of the country and have intended to take active part in it,” said a statement from the office of interim President Hamid Karzai.

Karzai has released hundreds of Taliban prisoners from Afghan jails in the months before the election.

The Pentagon said that “the decision to transfer or release a detainee is based on many factors, including whether the detainee is of further intelligence value to the United States and whether the detainee is believed to pose a threat to the United States if released.”

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The released prisoners included Naim Kuchi, a leader of the nomadic Kuchi tribe, who was detained near Kabul, the capital, by U.S. forces in January 2003.

Kuchi served as a commander in Logar province during Taliban rule and retained his status as tribal leader after the fall of the Islamic fundamentalist regime.

At the time, the military provided no explanation for his arrest, although human rights groups said he was detained on suspicion of weapons smuggling.


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