|Saturday’s deaths brought the Italian troop toll to 34 in Afghanistan since their deployment in 2004 [EPA]|
Four Italian Nato soldiers have been killed and another wounded after a roadside bomb by suspected anti-government fighters blew up their vehicle in southwestern Afghanistan, officials say.
The blast occurred on Saturday as the troops returned from a security operation in the Gulistan valley in Farah province.
The soldiers were escorting a convoy of 70 civilian lorries when a powerful home-made bomb exploded, the Italian news agency Ansa reported.
General Massimo Fogari, the head of the press service at the defence chief of staff, said that “after the blast, the convoy came under fire until the attackers were forced to flee” by the military fighting back.
He said that it was a Taliban-style attack.
The deaths brought the number of Nato forces killed this month to 24. At least 2,012 foreign service members have died since the US-led invasion in 2001 that removed the Taliban from power, according to a count by the Associated Press news agency.
In another development on Saturday, an abducted British aid worker was killed by her captors during a rescue attempt, Britain’s foreign minister says.
Linda Norgrove, 36, had been held hostage in eastern Afghanistan since September 26 after being kidnapped with three of her Afghan colleagues in southern Kunar province.
“It is with deep sadness that I must confirm that Linda Norgrove, the British aid worker, was killed at the hands of her captors in the course of a rescue attempt last night,” Foreign Secretary William Hague said in a statement.
The attack on the foreign troops came a day after Mohammad Omar, the governor of Kunduz province who was a vocal critic of the Taliban and had been the target of several previous attacks, was killed along with more than a dozen other people in a bomb blast at a mosque.
The blast occurred during Friday prayers at the Shirkat mosque in Taluqan, the main city of Takhar province, where Omar had reportedly travelled to because of security concerns in Kunduz.
Al Jazeera’s Sue Turton, reporting from Kabul, said: “[Omar] among others had been calling repeatedly for more effort to be put into the north to try to combat the Taliban and [what he said were] al-Qaeda fighters coming across from Uzbekistan and Tajikistan, bolstering the Taliban in that region.”
The attacks follow the reported deaths of two Taliban commanders on Thursday. Nato said its forces in a joint operation with Afghan troops killed two senior Taliban leaders and two other fighters after raiding a compound in eastern Afghanistan.
In a statement released on Saturday, Nato said Mullah Hezbollah, who operated in Wardak province, and Qari Sulayman were killed in that security operation.