Afghanistan bomb kills 2 NATO troops

A roadside bomb killed two NATO troops in southern Afghanistan on Sunday as international forces braced for a spring surge in fighting.

A third NATO soldier aboard a coalition helicopter died Saturday when the chopper crashed in the eastern province of Kapisa, alliance officials said.

On Sunday, Mullah Mohammad Omari, the Kapisa district governor, said the NATO airstrikes in the area had killed seven insurgents but also three civilians. The provincial police chief said four local Taliban commanders were wounded but that he had not received reports of civilians killed.

During the last month, 83 civilians have been killed and 260 wounded, according to the Interior Ministry.

U.S. Maj. Michael Johnson, a NATO spokesman, said he had no reports that alliance troops had caused civilian deaths near the crash site. The cause of the crash was still being investigated Sunday, Johnson said, adding that NATO officials had not ruled out the possibility that the helicopter had been shot down by insurgents.

Meanwhile, Interior Ministry officials announced Sunday that a gunman in the southern city of Lashkar Gah had assassinated Abdul Zahir, a leader of the provincial peace council and the former civilian chief of his district.

The Taliban claimed responsibility for the slaying. Two of its fighters attacked Zahir as he was on his way home, said Taliban spokesman Qari Yousef Ahmadi.

President Hamid Karzai condemned the attack.

The North Atlantic Treaty Organization also confirmed Sunday that Afghan and coalition forces had killed three leaders of the Haqqani network, an insurgent group with ties to Al Qaeda. Those killed included Salih Khan, a senior Haqqani leader in Nadir Shah Kot district.


Special correspondents Hashmat Baktash and Aimal Yaqubi in Kabul contributed to this report.

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