Five US soldiers killed, two held by Taleban

FIVE American soldiers were killed yesterday in bombings in southern Afghanistan as it was reported that Afghan insurgents had captured two US soldiers in a separate incident.

The kidnapped soldiers are being held in Logar, south of Kabul, following a fierce gun battle between the Taleban and American forces. US forces are understood to be offering a $20,000 reward for information leading to their safe release.

Meanwhile four victims died in a single blast in the south of the country, while a fifth service member was killed in a separate attack. They have yet to be named. The deaths bring to 75 the number of international troops killed in Afghanistan this month alone, including 56 Americans.

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The US-led force is ramping up operations against the Taleban in their southern strongholds, hoping to enable the Afghan government to expand its control in the volatile region. Rising casualty tolls, however, are eroding support for the war even as president Barack Obama has sent thousands of reinforcements to try to turn back the insurgents.

Last week, an international conference in Kabul endorsed president Hamid Karzai's plan for Afghan security forces to assume responsibility for protecting the country by the end of 2014. Obama has already pledged to begin removing US troops starting in July next year, although he has linked this to security conditions.

In the eastern province of Khost, a candidate in forthcoming parliamentary elections died on Friday of wounds suffered when a bomb exploded in a mosque in the Mando Zayi district.

The candidate, Maulvi Saydullah, was making a speech in a mosque when the bomb went off. His bodyguards and at least 15 other civilians were also hurt. Afghanistan is due to hold elections on 18 September despite fears of a Taleban surge.

Five Afghan civilians were killed by a bomb in the Chora district of Uruzgan province.

Seven militants have also died in clashes since Friday.

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