US soldier killed in Afghanistan

A US soldier has been killed and two others wounded in a landmine explosion in southeastern Afghanistan.

    The 20,000-strong occupation force has failed to bring peace

    A military spokeswoman said on Monday the casualties occurred

    when

    their Humvee drove on to a makeshift landmine

    in Zabul province near Deh Rawood.

    "

    All three were taken to Kandahar airfield hospital where

    one soldier died," she added.

    The incident comes as US-led occupation forces fight an escalating

    insurgency in the south and southeast - mountainous

    regions believed to be home to a permanent Taliban presence.

    UN staff working on the forthcoming presidential elections survived a bold attack in

    southeastern Paktia province on Sunday when rebels attempted to

    ambush their four-vehicle convoy with two landmines and

    small-arms fire.

    The 15 international and Afghan staff, who were being escorted

    by armed police, were unharmed.

    'Protracted' fight

    The Paktia incident is the most serious of its kind since two Britons working on security for the polls were beaten and shot dead with their Afghan interpreter in eastern Nuristan a month ago.

    The Taliban have regrouped in
    southern Afghanistan

    A spokesman for the US military, which was called in to provide

    air support to the beseiged UN convoy, said the attack had been a

    "fairly protracted engagement".

    Lieutenant Colonel Tucker Mansager said the US-led occupation force

    was

    working closely with the Afghan government and the UN to provide "a

    secure and stable framework for these democratic elections in

    September".

    Aid workers at risk

    Medecins Sans Frontieres, a medical aid group which lost

    three European and two Afghan staff in an ambush and

    shooting last week, said the occupation force's activities were putting aid

    workers at risk.

    Actions such as distributing leaflets linking the provision of

    aid with cooperation with soldiers "create a misperception that

    humanitarian action is in service of someone's military or political

    cause", the group's director of Dutch operations Kenny Gluck said

    .

    "It's spoiling the general environment for humanitarian action."

    While it is not known who was responsible for the recent

    attacks, Taliban activists have threatened to disrupt

    the elections scheduled for September and warned Afghans against

    working with the electoral process.

    Security concerns

    Voter registration sites were open in each of Afghanistan's 34

    provinces on Monday after a small number of booths started work in

    southeastern Paktia province.

    "I can confirm voter registration sites opening in Nuristan

    yesterday (Sunday) and Paktia today (Monday)," electoral commission

    spokesman Muhammad Azam said. "This covers the whole country."

    The main phase of voter registration began on 1 May but several

    provinces were initially excluded because of security concerns. So

    far three million of an estimated 10 million eligible Afghans

    have registered to vote.

    Violence and funds shortage may
    yet derail Karzai's election plan

    However, electoral officials have raised concerns about the

    uneven geographical distribution of voters, with only a small

    proportion coming from the troubled south and southeast, and the

    slow pace of registration.

    The US-backed government of President Hamid Karzai has stressed

    that elections will go ahead in September as planned, but fears are

    rife that the polls may be hurt by the ongoing insurgency and

    funding problems.

    The presidential and parliamentary polls are projected to cost

    around $101 million. But despite large pledges, the United

    Nations, which is helping to organise the vote, has so far no

    received no money to pay for them.

    While the international community has pledged $70 million

    , "not one penny is in the bank", a UN spokesman

    said on Sunday.

    Gun battles

    Meanwhile, anti-occupation attacks show no sign of abating.

    In addition to the attack on the UN convoy on Sunday, suspected

    Taliban killed a policeman in a three-hour attack on a government

    headquarters in eastern Logar province.

    US-led troops, who now number some 20,000 in the country,

    fought opposition fighters in Zabul and Uruzgan provinces on Thursday, Friday

    and Sunday in engagements which left at least 17 suspected Taliban

    dead.

    Occupation forces captured five suspected rebel fighters after a

    firefight in the southeast Afghan border town of Spin Boldak on

    Friday.

    SOURCE: AFP


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