KABUL, Afghanistan -- Eight American service members were killed Tuesday in insurgent attacks in southern Afghanistan, a focal point of the U.S. military campaign to combat the resurgent Taliban.
The latest incidents, which came after 14 Americans were killed Monday when three helicopters crashed, brought the number of U.S. personnel killed in Afghanistan in October so far to 55, making it the deadliest month for American service members in the eight-year-old war, and proportionately one of the worst months for U.S. forces in either Iraq or Afghanistan.
Seven service members and an Afghan civilian died when their vehicle was attacked with a bomb and enemy fire, said Lt. Col. Todd Vician, a NATO spokesman for the International Security Assistance Force in Kabul. An eighth U.S. service member was killed in a separate roadside bombing.
U.S. military officials in Kabul wouldn't immediately release the names of the dead, their units or the locations of the attacks, pending notification of the next of kin.
A senior military official in Washington, speaking only on the condition of anonymity because he isn't authorized to talk publicly about the incident, told McClatchy that one of the vehicles hit was a Stryker troop transport in the Arghandab Valley of Kandahar province. Strykers are eight-wheeled armored vehicles that have been used extensively in Iraq and were deployed to Afghanistan for the first time this summer by the Fort Lewis, Wash.-based 5th Brigade of the Army's 2nd Infantry Division.
The 5th Brigade of more than 3,800 soldiers has been patrolling in the Arghandab Valley and other areas of southern Afghanistan. The brigade's 1st Battalion, 17th Infantry Regiment, is assigned to the Arghandab Valley, which has sustained the heaviest losses of any Stryker battalion from roadside bombs, bombs that detonate on foot patrols and small-arms fire in an area of open desert and dense foliage in irrigated farm fields.
Southern Afghanistan is a vast landscape of mountains, deserts and irrigated fields that's home to many conservative Pashtuns, who live in urban centers such as Kandahar and numerous towns and smaller villages.
Also on Tuesday, NATO officials in Afghanistan announced the recovery of the bodies of three civilian crew members who were killed when a U.S. Army C-12 Huron twin-engine turboprop plane crashed Oct. 13 in Nuristan province.
The losses starkly reflect the risks in fighting this ninth year of war of Afghanistan, as insurgents have stepped up roadside bomb attacks. The expansion of U.S. troops here has increased the strains on helicopters used to ferry troops and supplies and attack the enemy.
The 55 service members killed so far this month were among the 66,000 American forces stationed here. The worst month for U.S. forces in Iraq was April 2004, when 135 were killed out of a total deployment of 128,000.
(Bernton reports for The Seattle Times. Youssef reported from Washington.)
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