KABUL, Afghanistan - A coalition patrol fought off an insurgent attack in mountainous eastern Afghanistan yesterday, on a day when two servicemen were killed in the country's troubled south, bringing the 2010 death toll for foreign troops in the country to 700, according to an AP count.
This year is by far the deadliest for the coalition in the nearly decade-long war, as tens of thousands of additional international troops have poured into the country in an effort to suppress a virulent Taliban insurgency.
Many parts of eastern Afghanistan, along the border with Pakistan, remain violent and under militant control. NATO forces often engaging in heavy fighting there.
In the eastern province of Kunar, a fierce firefight broke out when U.S. soldiers from Forward Operating Base Fortress came under attack as their patrol drove on a small road through mountainous territory in Chowkey District, an AP photographer with the troops said.
A roadside bomb struck a vehicle in the patrol first, and militants then opened fire on the soldiers with rocket-propelled grenades and rifles. The U.S. soldiers hit back with gunfire and artillery in an hour-long firefight that caused no U.S. casualties.
NATO said two servicemembers were killed by roadside bombs in southern Afghanistan yesterday. In line with its standard policy, NATO did not provide the nationality of either casualty or say where they were killed. Late yesterday, the British government said one of its soldiers was killed in Helmand province but did not give his name.
While the increased numbers of troops and stepped-up operations account for more military casualties, it is civilians who have often borne the brunt of the war. A recent United Nations report said it documented 2,412 conflict-related civilian casualties in the first 10 months of the year. More than three-quarters of them were caused by militant activity, a 25 percent increase from the same period in 2009, the report said.