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3 US troops killed in Afghan IED blast

KABUL, Afghanistan – Three U.S. troops were killed and three wounded when a roadside bomb exploded Tuesday in central Afghanistan, marking the deadliest week for U.S. forces in the country this year.

The wounded troops and an American contractor also injured in the blast near Ghazni city were evacuated and are receiving medical care, a military statement said.

The blast occurred when a convoy including more than 100 Afghan and foreign forces’ vehicles hit a roadside bomb, said Gen. Abdul Raziq, commander of the Fourth Brigade of the Afghan army’s 203rd Corps, in a phone interview.

The convoy was returning to a base in Ghazni province after an operation against the Taliban in neighboring Paktika province, Raziq said. He said no Afghans were injured.

The Taliban quickly claimed responsibility for the attack, saying it was targeted at “American invaders.” Insurgents have stepped up activity in Ghazni in recent months and regularly carry out attacks in Paktika, which borders Pakistan.

The names of the slain troops were being withheld until after next of kin are notified, in accordance with Pentagon policy.

The deaths came just days after Sgt. Leandro Jasso, a member of the elite 75th Ranger Regiment, was killed battling al-Qaida fighters during a raid in southwestern Nimruz province. A separate statement on Tuesday said his death may have been the result of an accidental shooting by an Afghan ally during close-quarters fighting against dug-in enemy fighters.

Tuesday’s blast also follows a visit to Ghazni last week by the top U.S. commander in the country, Gen. Scott Miller, to discuss the security situation. In August, the Taliban stormed the city, located about 100 miles southwest of Kabul, in one of their most significant advances in years, leading to days of heavy fighting.

Several U.S. Special Forces troops were wounded and seven armored vehicles were disabled by enemy roadside bombs, mortars and rockets as they rushed to aid Afghan forces in repelling the Taliban assault, Time magazine reported in the wake of the battle.

During Miller’s visit last week, two rockets were fired on the city, damaging a medical facility, but there were no reported casualties.

A photograph of Miller carrying an M4 carbine during the visit circulated on social media. Miller was at a meeting last month where two Afghan leaders were killed in an insider attack that wounded two other Americans.

Earlier this month, Taliban fighters took swaths of two outlying districts in Ghazni province, forcing thousands of civilians to flee the violence and leading to demonstrations in the Afghan capital calling for the government to oust the insurgents.

Afghan security forces members expressed condolences for the Americans fatally wounded by the latest violence in the province.

“U.S. troops are fighting terrorism side-by-side with us. If they suffer, we suffer,” said Ahmad Khan Seerat, a Ghazni police spokesman. “Today we are sad that we lost our partners.”

The deaths bring to 13 the number of U.S. troops killed in the country in 2018. Of those, 12 were combat fatalities, the most in a single year since the end of 2014, when most international combat troops were withdrawn from the country.

wellman.phillip@stripes.com

Twitter: @pwwellman

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