Afghanistan: attack near U.S. convoy kills 2, helicopters make emergency landings

A suicide attack near a convoy of U.S.-led coalition forces killed the assailant and a civilian Sunday in volatile southern Afghanistan, where two U.S. helicopters made emergency landings during combat operations against insurgents, officials said.

In Kandahar, the former Taliban stronghold, an attacker's explosives detonated on a main street after a convoy from the U.S.-led forces in Afghanistan passed, killing the assailant and a civilian and wounding two other people, U.S. military and Afghan police officials said.

One of the injured was a coalition soldier, who was treated for minor injuries and returned to duty, said Lt. Mike Cody, a coalition spokesman. He did not say what country the soldier was from, but Afghan state television reported that the convoy was Canadian.

The blast occurred when the attacker was hit by a motorbike, Afghan Interior Ministry spokesman Yousuf Stanekzai said. The motorbike driver was killed, said Stanekzai, who said two other people were wounded.

Cody, Stanekzai and other officials called the attacker a suicide bomber, while a police officer at the scene, Mohammad Shafi, said the man was apparently trying to throw a grenade at the convoy.

Hours earlier, the U.S. military said two of its helicopters made emergency landings during combat operations, injuring five American troops and an Afghan soldier. The Americans were not seriously hurt, and all the injured were reported in stable condition, the military said.

The five U.S. soldiers were injured when one of the CH-47 Chinooks landed north of Kandahar, suffering serious damage, the military said. The other helicopter made an emergency landing at a forward operating base in neighboring Uruzgan province, the military said.

A purported Taliban spokesman, Qari Mohammed Yousaf, claimed the Taliban shot down the helicopter north of Kandahar with a rocket, but he also said that all aboard were killed. Yousaf often calls media to claim responsibility for attacks, often with information that proves exaggerated or untrue. His exact tie to the Taliban leadership is not clear.

The U.S. military said it was investigating the causes of the incidents. It said both helicopters were involved in combat operations "against enemy forces."

Some 20,000 coalition troops are fighting Taliban and al-Qaida-linked insurgents in southern and eastern Afghanistan, and increased violence has left nearly 1,500 people dead this year the bloodiest since U.S.-led forces ousted the Taliban from power in 2001.

In addition to rocket attacks, roadside bombings and ambushes in the rugged south and east, often targeting coalition and Afghan forces, rebels have turned to suicide bombings and other attacks in cities including the capital, Kabul, reported AP.

The September parliamentary elections marked the final step on an internationally backed path to democracy. But the election of former warlords and others involved in past violence has raised concern that internal tensions may continue to hobble the country. P.T.

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