KANDAHAR, Afghanistan — Eight American troops died in attacks in southern Afghanistan, including a car bombing and gunfight outside a police compound in Kandahar, officials said Wednesday as the Taliban push back against a coalition effort to secure the volatile region.
The deadly 24 hours for U.S. troops came a day after three British soldiers were killed when one of their Afghan army allies attacked them with gunfire and rocket-propelled grenades. A senior Afghan army officer identified the man as a Shiite Hazara — an ethnic minority usually opposed to the Taliban — and said his motive was still unclear.
In the southern city of Kandahar, a suicide attacker slammed a car bomb into the gate of the headquarters of the elite Afghan National Civil Order Police late Tuesday night, a NATO statement said. Minutes later, insurgents opened fire with machine-guns and rocket-propelled grenades.
Three U.S. troops, an Afghan policeman and five civilians died in the attack, but NATO said the insurgents failed to enter the compound.
The special police unit, known as ANCOP, had only recently been dispatched to Kandahar to set up checkpoints along with international forces to try to secure the south’s largest city, the spiritual birthplace of the Taliban.
The dead civilians included three Afghan translators and two security guards, Kandahar provincial police chief Sardar Mohammad Zazai said.
Taliban spokesman Qari Yousef Ahmadi telephoned reporters Wednesday to claim responsibility for the attack. The insurgents, which are prone to exaggerate death tolls inflicted on Afghan and international security forces, claimed 13 international troops and eight Afghan security forces died in the raid.
NATO and Afghan troops are fanning out elsewhere in Kandahar province to pressure insurgents in rural areas. The strategy is to improve security with more and better-trained police and troops so that capable governance can take root and development projects can move forward.