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US Special Forces Soldiers Killed in Afghanistan - 2003-03-29

Two U.S. Special Forces soldiers were killed Saturday in an ambush in southern Afghanistan. One other U.S. soldier was wounded in the incident. The deaths bring to 18 the number of U.S. troops killed in combat in Afghanistan since operation Enduring Freedom began more than one year ago.

A statement from coalition headquarters at Bagram air base says the two U.S. soldiers were on a reconnaissance patrol in Helmand province when they were attacked. At least three Afghan soldiers were also wounded in the incident which occurred in Gereshk district about 170 kilometers west of the city of Kandahar.

Local Afghan officials say the U.S. and Afghan soldiers had just finished inspecting a school when their convoy was attacked by several assailants riding on motorcycles. The attackers escaped. Afghan officials are blaming the incident on Taleban fighters active in the area. In a broadcaster interview on Friday with the BBC, senior Taleban representative Mullah Dadulla threatened to escalate attacks against U.S. and Afghan forces. The incident occurred two days after unidentified gunmen killed a Swiss water engineer working for the International Committee of the Red Cross in neighboring Uruzgan province. Both incidents have raised fears of increased instability in southern Afghanistan as coalition forces have stepped up operations in the area.

Earlier Saturday coalition F-16 fighters were called in to support a small group of U.S. Special Forces troops and Afghan soldiers near the area of Khakrez in Kandahar province when they came under fire from about 100 suspected Taleban and al-Qaida operatives.

No coalition casualties are reported in that incident and there is no information about any opposition casualties.

The Governor of Oruzgun province in southern Afghanistan reported Saturday that several suspected Taleban fighters were killed and several others captured in fighting with Afghan army troops about 75 kilometers north of the city of Kandahar.

Coalition forces have launched two major offensives this month: Operation Valiant Strike in the Samighar Mountains of Kandahar province and Operation Desert Lion in northeastern Afghanistan.