U.S. troops in Afghanistan were bracing for reprisal attacks after a rogue soldier reportedly went on a shooting spree Sunday, killing 16 people in hamlets near a base in Kandahar, nine of whom were children. Some of the bodies of the dead were reportedly set on fire by the soldier, reportedly a staff sergeant.
The Taliban claimed responsibility for suicide and car bombs that killed 18 residents of two guesthouses popular with Indians and Westerners in Kabul, Afghanistan. The attacks took place as coalition forces mounted an offensive against terrorists in Afghanistan's Helmand province.
Faced with a growing Taliban presence and a corrupt and incompetent local police force, NATO commanders are expected to seek additional troops to re-establish control of Kandahar, the Afghan city many believe is essential to a successful counterinsurgency. "Kandahar means Afghanistan," Governor Tooryalai Wesa said. "The history of Afghanistan, the politics of Afghanistan, was always determined from Kandahar, and once again, it will be determined from Kandahar."
With the backing of helicopter gunships, nearly 4,000 U.S. Marines and 650 Afghan soldiers launched a ground campaign in the volatile Helmand River valley, where poppy crops provide the Taliban with a significant source of income. The troops encountered little resistance as Taliban forces had decided to flee instead of maintaining their hold on the area. Pakistan deployed troops along its border with Afghanistan in hopes of sealing it to any fleeing militants. In eastern Afghanistan, an American troop apparently was captured.
A suicide bomber attacked a U.S. military convoy in a crowded marketplace in eastern Afghanistan, killing a soldier and 18 others, including a 12-year-old boy. The latest insurgent attack followed Wednesday's massive suicide bombing involving an explosives-packed truck that rattled all of Kandahar when it was detonated near the provincial council building.