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

The wounded – three troops and a contractor – were evacuated and are receiving medical care, a military statement said.

The blast occurred near Ghazni city when a convoy of U.S. forces sent to help battle the Taliban struck the bomb, said Mohammad Araf Noori, spokesman for the governor of Ghazni province.

The troops were on their way to Andar district to participate in military operations against insurgents, Amanullah Kamran, a provincial council member, told Stars and Stripes.

The Taliban quickly claimed responsibility for the attack, saying it was targeted at “American invaders.” The group has stepped up activity in Ghazni in recent months.

If it wasn’t for U.S. military support, the province would fall to the Taliban, Kamran said.

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. Twitter: @pwwellman

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Phillip is a reporter and photographer for Stars and Stripes, based in Kaiserslautern, Germany. From 2016 to 2021, he covered the war in Afghanistan from Stripes’ Kabul bureau. He is a graduate of the London School of Economics.

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