Hundreds of US marines and Afghan forces have killed more than 40 suspected militants in the past week in an operation to take a remote mountain valley from insurgents who had inflicted the deadliest blow on US forces since the Taliban regime was ousted nearly four years ago, the US military said yesterday.
The operation, which concluded over the weekend, was aimed at rebels believed responsible for twin attacks, including the downing of a helicopter, that killed 19 US troops in late June in Korengal Valley, eastern Kunar Province.
"It was successful," Lieutenant Colonel Jerry O'Hara said. "We had over 29 separate engagements with enemy forces that resulted in over 40 enemy killed in action and many others wounded."
He declined to give other details of the offensive.
But O'Hara also announced that a separate three-day battle between Aug. 7 and Aug. 10 in southern Zabul Province's Daychopan district left a total of 65 suspected militants dead. The military had previously reported that 16 rebels had been killed in the fighting.
News of the casualties comes after a deadly period for US forces in Afghanistan, with 13 US troops killed this month. Four soldiers were killed on Sunday when a massive bomb exploded under a wooden bridge as a convoy of armored Humvees was crossing it. Three troops were wounded by shrapnel from secondary explosions as they tried to pull the four out of a burning Humvee.
Most of the troops who have been killed have been part of a major offensive against militants who have vowed to subvert legislative elections on Sept. 18 -- the next step toward democracy after more than two decades of war and civil strife.
A roadside bomb also exploded on Sunday near a convoy of US embassy vehicles on the outskirts of Kabul, lightly wounding two US staff members, embassy spokesman Lou Fintor said.
Some 187 US service members have been killed in and around Afghanistan since the start of Operation Enduring Freedom in late 2001 -- including 64 during a rash of insurgent attacks in the last six months, which have left about 1,000 other people dead as well.
The bloodshed has led the military to rush in an airborne infantry battalion of about 700 troops on standby in Fort Bragg, North Carolina, boosting the number of US troops in Afghanistan to about 20,000. Some 3,100 soldiers from 19 other nations also are members of the US-led coalition.
A separate NATO-led peacekeeping force has also brought in reinforcements ahead of the polls.