2 US soldiers go missing in Afghanistan; 5 killed

Afp July 24, 2010

KABUL: Nato said on Saturday two American soldiers in Afghanistan have gone missing, hours after reporting that five US troops were killed by Taliban-style bombs.

The missing soldiers had left their compound in Kabul late Friday “and did not return,” a statement from Nato’s International Security Assistance Force (Isaf) said.

Their vehicle had been recovered, an official said, adding that Isaf was receiving conflicting reports about the fate of the two.

“Nobody has been found but there are reports that there may be a casualty and that the body has been removed from the scene,” a military official said, speaking on condition of anonymity.

All reports were unsubstantiated, he said.

Isaf’s statement said a road and air search had been launched.

A Taliban spokesman denied the insurgents were behind the disappearance of the soldiers.

Speaking to AFP by telephone from an undisclosed location, the Taliban spokesman for eastern Afghanistan, Zabihullah Mujahid, said: “So far, we are not aware of it and cannot confirm this”.

Kidnappings of foreign soldiers are rare in Afghanistan, where a nine-year insurgency has been escalating in recent months, particularly in the southern provinces of Helmand and Kandahar.

Most kidnappings in recent years have been by criminals for ransom, though targets identified as high value have in the past been sold on to insurgent groups, who then use them as political pawns.

The Taliban warned earlier this year they would target foreign military and government installations and staff, as well as Afghans working for them or for the Kabul government.

A 24-year-old US soldier, Bowe Bergdahl, who disappeared on June 30, 2009 is believed to have been the first American snatched by militants in Afghanistan.

Bergdahl’s captors have released at least two videos showing him to be alive, most recently in April.

Earlier Saturday, Nato said that Taliban-style bomb attacks had killed five US soldiers in southern Afghanistan.

One attack killed four soldiers, while the fifth soldier was killed in a later attack, Isaf said.

Both attacks involved improvised explosive devices, the main weapon deployed by the Taliban in their insurgency.

An Isaf spokeswoman confirmed all five were Americans.

The deaths bring to 397 the toll of foreign soldiers killed in the war so far this year, compared with 520 for all of 2009.

An AFP tally based on that kept by the icasualties.org website puts the number of soldiers to have died since the Afghan insurgency began in 2001 at 1,965, with 1,205 of them Americans.

IEDs are the main cause of foreign soldiers’ deaths, according to military officials, who say more home-made bombs are being used as insurgents adapt to the greater defences of the foreign forces.

Published in The Express Tribune, July 25th, 2010.

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