U.S. soldier dies from wounds in Afghanistan

Saturday, November 1, 2003

KABUL, Afghanistan -- A U.S. special forces soldier died from wounds he suffered during fighting in a southern Afghan province, the U.S. military said Friday.

The fighting broke out Thursday when troops from the U.S.-led coalition patrolling with Afghan militia in Helmand province met between 10 and 15 combatants about 35 miles west of Deh Rawood in neighboring Uruzgan province, the coalition said in a statement.

A-10 Thunderbolt warplanes and Apache attack helicopters were called in to reinforce the ground troops in small-arms fighting between the sides.

One "enemy" soldier was killed, and the U.S. special forces soldier and an Afghan militiaman were wounded, the U.S. military said from the coalition base at Bagram, north of Kabul.

The U.S. soldier died Thursday from "wounds received in combat" after he was evacuated by helicopter to an airfield in the southern city of Kandahar, the coalition said. His identity wasn't released pending notification of relatives.

No other details were released on the battle.

Intelligence sources and ex-Taliban have said anti-coalition attacks in the same area are being commanded by former Taliban Interior Minister Abdul Razzak.

On Thursday, the United Nations said it had temporarily suspended road missions to four provinces in the south including Helmand and Uruzgan because of attacks on humanitarian workers. Armed escorts also are accompanying U.N. missions in parts of Kandahar province, U.N. spokesman Manoel de Almeida e Silva said in Kabul.

Helmand province is a major opium poppy growing region in Afghanistan, although the United Nations has said production of the illegal crop is dropping off there and moving to central Afghanistan. U.S. troops have previously conducted house-to-house searches in the same area as the Thursday fighting.

The U.S. military last year referred to the area around Deh Rawood as the "home" of the Taliban in Afghanistan and a region where they enjoy wide support -- where the extended families of former Taliban leader Mullah Omar and the movement's former supreme military commander, Mullah Berader, both live.

Fighting has intensified in Afghanistan over the past several months between the coalition and remnants of the ousted Taliban movement or al-Qaida, although it has mostly focused on provinces bordering Pakistan.

Last Saturday, two CIA operatives were killed after being ambushed on the border near a base at Shkin, in Paktika province, 135 miles south of the capital. The ambush occurred in the same area and on the same day as fighting during which coalition and Afghan forces killed 18 attackers that the military said were members of al-Qaida.

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