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Taliban attacks kill 2 U.S. soldiers, 18 Afghan soldiers

Three attacks by the Taliban in last 48 hours left at least two American soldiers and 18 Afghan soldiers dead, officials said Saturday, in what looks set to be a particularly bloody weekend in Afghanistan.

Two American soldiers died Friday as a result of a bomb that targeted a convoy of NATO-led International Security Assistance Force troops, a U.S. defense official said Saturday on condition of anonymity.

ISAF, which also reported the attack but did not release the nationalities of the victims, said the attack happened in eastern Afghanistan.

The Taliban claimed responsibility. Spokesman Zabiullah Mujahid tweeted that a U.S. convoy had been targeted in Bagram district and claimed five Americans were killed.

On Saturday morning, 12 Afghan soldiers who were clearing mines in southern Helmand province died in an attack, according to Omar Zwak, a spokesman for the provincial governor.

The soldiers were defusing devices planted by the Taliban to target military tanks and vehicles in an area between Shorabak and Nad Ali districts of southern Helmand, he said.

Afghan security forces who arrived at the scene of the attack killed three of the militants and arrested four others.

The Taliban claimed responsibility for the attack and said those killed were not genuine mine-clearers.

In an attack Saturday afternoon, a suicide bomber targeted a bus carrying Afghan National Army personnel in the Guzargah area of Kabul on Saturday afternoon, said Sediq Sediqqi, a spokesman for the Afghan Interior Ministry.

Six army personnel were killed and 18 other people were injured, including two women bystanders, he said.

The Taliban spokesman, Mujahid, claimed responsibility for the blast in an e-mail.

He said that from now on, Taliban attacks against foreign and Afghan forces would be stepped up.

In the past couple of months, the Taliban have targeted many Afghan National Army buses and other vehicles.

Two days ago, a bus carrying army personnel to work was targeted by a suicide bomber. Five servicemen were killed and 12 more were injured.

After many attacks on army buses, especially during the morning and evening rush-hour periods, Kabul residents are worried. Some have called on the Afghan Defense Ministry to change the way it transports army personnel.

Hashmatullah, who witnessed Saturday’s attack, said: “The Defense Ministry should stop using big buses to avoid being an easy target, and its personnel should use different routes to commute to work.”

He said that this way the lives of both army personnel and civilians who are traveling on the same roads would be saved.

The Taliban issued a separate warning Saturday via Facebook to media critical of the group, saying “that from now on (the Taliban) will not stay silent and tolerate their actions and by using every possible way attacks will be carried out against them so immorality is annihilated from its root in our country.”

The continuing violence comes as Afghan forces prepare to take on greater responsibility for ensuring the country’s security as international forces transition to a supporting role.

At the end of December, U.S. forces will end their combat role in Afghanistan and instead focus on counterterrorism missions and training, advising and assisting Afghan troops.

Nonetheless, nearly 11,000 U.S. troops will remain in Afghanistan in the beginning of 2015. American forces will drop to 5,500 in 2016 and by 2017 the coalition will consolidate to Kabul.

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