NATO in Afghanistan.
(photo credit: AP)
Two NATO soldiers died battling militants in southern Afghanistan on Wednesday, as the militant death toll in June rose to 200 amid stepped up operations by both foreign forces and insurgents.
The increase in violence has also claimed the lives of civilians and media workers. An Afghan radio station owner was gunned down in northern Afghanistan Wednesday, the second death of a female reporter in a week. Elsewhere, US-led coalition and Afghan troops backed by airstrikes killed two militants and detained 19 others.
Both military and militant operations are intensifying, raising doubts about the prospects for stability more than five years after a US-led invasion drove the Taliban from power.
Two soldiers from NATO's International Security Assistance Force died in "separate engagements with enemy fighters" in southern Afghanistan, an ISAF statement said, without specifying their nationalities.
Britain's Defense Ministry later confirmed that one of the two NATO soldiers was British, but would not reveal the nationality of the other.
It said the soldier was taking part in an offensive patrol in the Upper Gereshk Valley area of Helmand province in southern Afghanistan when they came under attack.
"The company was moving forward to clear a Taliban compound when they came under fire and the soldier was shot," a statement from the ministry said. It said the soldier was taken to hospital where he was pronounced dead on arrival.
Their deaths bring to 77 the number of international troops killed in Afghanistan this year, according to an Associated Press count. Six have been killed in the last six days, including at least four US soldiers. At least 38 American troops have been killed in Afghanistan this year.
The militant fatalities this month account for about 10 percent of the estimated 2,000 insurgency-related deaths in Afghanistan this year, according to an AP count based on figures by US, NATO and Afghan officials.
An ISAF spokeswoman, Lt. Col. Maria Carl, said NATO and Afghan troops are participating in more than 20 operations around the country and operating in more regions than a year ago.
Zakia Zaki, owner and manager of Peace Radio, was gunned down in front of her 8-year-old son inside her home in northern Parwan province, provincial Gov. Abdul Jabar Takwa said. No motive was immediately known. Zaki led the radio station since it opened after the fall of the Taliban in October 2001, Takwa said.
"The people were happy with her radio station, and she was providing information for Parwan, Kapisa and Kabul provinces," Takwa said.
Another female reporter, Shokiba Sanga Amaaj, was shot in the back inside her house in Kabul on Friday by two male relatives, said Gen. Ali Shah Paktiawal, the Kabul police director of criminal investigations. She was a newsreader for private Shamshad TV.
Women have become active in Afghanistan's independent media with the easing of restrictions after the fundamentalist Taliban regime was ousted, but remain a small minority among journalists.
In the central province of Uruzgan, militants attacked troops from the US-led coalition and Afghan forces in the Khas Uruzgan district on Tuesday, a coalition statement said, adding that two suspected militants were later found dead and nine others were detained.
To the southeast, coalition and Afghan troops on Wednesday raided a suspected Taliban hide-out in Zabul province, detaining 10 suspected fighters, the coalition said.
Southern and eastern Afghanistan are at the center of the Taliban-led insurgency.
In eastern Paktika province, a local district chief was killed in an explosion Wednesday caused by a mine he tried to remove from a road, said Mohammad Akrem Akhpelwak, the provincial governor.
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