A powerful homemade bomb killed four U.S. service members Monday in southern Afghanistan, military officials said, an unusually high number of troop deaths in a single explosion.
Bombs known as improvised explosive devices, or IEDs, have caused the bulk of Western combat casualties in Afghanistan, despite concerted efforts to provide better protection for troops in the field, including sophisticated mine-resistant vehicles and improved body armor.
Because these homemade bombs are the weapon most favored by insurgents facing a far more powerful conventional military force, the rate of catastrophic battlefield wounds among U.S. and other Western troops is on the rise, including loss of multiple limbs and injuries to the groin.
Insurgent groups in recent years have been planting larger and more sophisticated bombs to kill and maim Western troops, hiding the devices on roads and livestock trails, in mud-brick compounds and gullies, even in trees. Many bombs are built with plastic components to make them more difficult to detect.
The surge in violence that has accompanied the start of the spring “fighting season” has taken a heavy toll on civilians in recent days as well, particularly children.
Officials in Kunar province, in eastern Afghanistan, said Monday that at least three civilians were killed and eight injured in an apparently misdirected mortar attack by insurgents against a remote American base. The NATO force and Afghanistan’s Interior Ministry condemned the attack, whose victims reportedly included women and at least one child.
Earlier Monday, the NATO force said it was investigating reports of more civilian casualties over the weekend, also in Kunar province. Afghan officials in the Ghaziabad district said they believed Western forces were responsible for the death of a 12-year-old girl and the wounding of four other girls.
In a separate incident last week, the coalition apologized for the death of an 11-year-old girl in a night raid led by U.S. forces in Nangarhar province, also in eastern Afghanistan. On Saturday, another raid in Nangarhar resulted in the death of a 15-year-old boy, setting off an angry protest in which another young boy was killed.