AP tally: 1,000th US military death in Afghanistan
KABUL, Afghanistan (AP) – The U.S. military suffered its 1,000th death of the Afghan war Friday, according to an Associated Press count, when NATO reported a service member was killed by a roadside bomb in southern Afghanistan.
The NATO statement did not identify the victim’s name or nationality, but U.S. spokesman Col. Wayne Shanks said the service member was American.
The Associated Press bases its tally on U.S. Defense Department reports of deaths suffered as a direct result of the Afghan conflict, including personnel assigned to units in Afghanistan, Pakistan or Uzbekistan.
Other news organizations count deaths suffered by service members assigned elsewhere as part of Operation Enduring Freedom, which includes operations in the Philippines, the Horn of Africa and at the U.S. detention facility at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba.
The NATO statement gave no details of the bombing Friday, nor did it specify where the attack occurred. U.S., NATO and Afghan forces are gearing up for a major operation in the south in a bid to shore up government control of Kandahar, the biggest city in southern Afghanistan and the Taliban’s former headquarters.
The list of American service members killed in combat in Afghanistan begins with Sgt. 1st Class Nathan Ross Chapman of San Antonio, Texas. The 31-year-old career Special forces soldier was ambushed on Jan. 4, 2002, after attending a meeting with Afghan leaders in Khost province. He left a wife and two children. The base where a suicide bomber killed seven CIA employees in December bears his name.
The latest death was reported just ahead of the Memorial Day weekend in the United States when Americans honor their dead in all the nation’s wars.
Elsewhere, Afghan officials said a Pakistani Taliban leader who spearheaded the takeover of Pakistan’s Swat Valley three years ago may have been killed in a fierce battle with Afghan forces in remote eastern Afghanistan.
Hundreds of militants have been trying since Sunday to seize control of the Barg-e-Matal district of Nuristan province along the Pakistani border, provincial officials said.
Following a strong attack Wednesday night, villagers who took part in the fighting reported that they had killed the Taliban commander, Maulana Fazlullah, along with six of his fighters, according to Gen. Mohammad Zaman Mamozai, commander for Afghan border police in eastern Afghanistan.
Nuristan police Chief Mohammad Qasim said authorities were unable to confirm the death of Fazlullah, who gained prominence in 2007 as the “Radio Mullah” for his vehemently anti-Western sermons on local radio stations in the Swat Valley. The former mountain resort area fell under Taliban control until Pakistani forces drove them out last year.
In Pakistan, Maulana Faqir Mohammed, the Taliban chief in the Bajur area, told The Associated Press by phone that Fazlullah had gone to Nuristan with his fighters.
“We are trying to contact him,” he said. “We believe that he is safe and he has not been killed.”
Another Taliban commander in Bajur, Asad Ullah, insisted that Fazlullah was alive.
“Maulana Fazlullah was the guest of Taliban in Nuristan, and we don’t think he can be killed so easily,” he said.
The Afghan Interior Ministry said one police officer had also been killed in the Nuristan fighting, which continued Thursday. Officials said about 500 Pakistani Taliban were involved in the siege.
The insurgents first attacked the district government building on Sunday. Provincial police chief Gen. Mohammad Qasim Jangulbagh said local residents joined the fight against the Taliban because they heard Fazlullah had issued a fatwa, or religious command, to kill those who supported the government.
Nuristan is a rugged, mountainous province whose people have a reputation for fierce resistance to outsiders.