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2 Election Workers Killed in Afghan Ambush, 2 US Soldiers Die in Explosion - 2004-08-07

Two election workers in Afghanistan have been killed in an ambush, and the U.S. military says two U.S. soldiers and an Afghan interpreter were killed in a landmine explosion.

The U.S. military says the soldiers and their interpreter were killed Saturday morning when their Humvee struck a homemade landmine positioned along their route in Ghazni province. A third soldier was wounded in the blast.

The previous evening in neighboring Uruzgan province, militants ambushed a convoy of Afghan election workers, killing two members of the voter registration team.

U.S. military spokesman Major Scott Nelson says militants also ambushed and wounded four U.S. soldiers in a separate incident Friday. "About 10 insurgents attacked them. The soldiers engaged the enemy with small arms fire. They wounded and captured two insurgents," he said.

Afghan and U.S. officials attribute the sharp rise in attacks over the past several months to efforts by remnants of the former Taleban regime to disrupt the coming elections.

Afghanistan is slated to hold its first post-war presidential election in October, with parliamentary elections due next April.

Speaking to reporters Saturday, Major Nelson singled out recent attacks on relief workers as especially troubling.

He rejected claims made by some aid groups that humanitarian projects conducted by coalition forces are blurring the line between the military and aid groups, and subsequently encouraging insurgent attacks on relief organizations.

"They [the militants] know the difference between coalition forces and noncombatants," he added. "They are not stupid. This is a premeditated strategy to derail the process for peace."

Deteriorating security conditions in Afghanistan have already prompted the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees, German aid group Malteser, and the medical relief group, Doctors Without Borders, to suspend some or all of their work in the country.