KABUL, Afghanistan -- A suicide bomber wearing a vest packed with explosives killed two foreign troops in eastern Afghanistan on Wednesday, according to NATO and Afghan officials.
Din Mohammad Darwesh, the governor's spokesperson in Logar province, said the bomber targeted a vehicle inside a NATO convoy that was on its way to a nearby district. Although the NATO-led international military coalition declined to give further details on the casualties, citing policy, Darwesh said both of those killed were Americans, one immediately and one who died of his wounds a short while later. A third soldier was injured, he added.
Wednesday's deaths bring the number of coalition fatalities to at least 3,190, including 2,123 Americans, since the war started in 2001, according to icasualties.org.
On Tuesday, Afghan President Hamid Karzai told the United Nations General Assembly in New York that his country has made progress after decades of war, but that it still has a ways to go. "Our achievements have not come about easily," he said. "The Afghan people continue to pay the biggest price any nation has paid -- in both life and treasure."
Insurgents in Afghanistan remain heavily reliant on homemade bombs when carrying out attacks, although the coalition says it's seen growing success foiling such attacks. More than half of all roadside bombs and mines were discovered and cleared before they detonated between January and July, NATO said in its monthly casualty report for August, while those that detonated were down 14% compared with the January-July 2011 period.
Insurgent attacks involving weapons other than homemade bombs -- including those involving machine guns and surface-to-air missiles -- fell 9% in August after hitting a 10-month peak in June. Afghanistan's poppy-growing season, when many insurgents head off to tend their crop, was shorter than usual this year, the coalition said, leading to an earlier-than-normal fighting season in May and June. That pushed everything up, it added, leading to diminished violence in July and August.
But significant regional differences remain. Though there were fewer such enemy attacks in Kabul and in the eastern, southern and southwestern parts of the country between January and August, attacks rose in northern and western Afghanistan.
NATO said that in August, insurgents were responsible for 98% of all civilian deaths and injuries -- a politically sensitive issue -- in those cases where responsibility could be determined.
The insurgents' continued heavy reliance on roadside and suicide bombs is evident in the daily report of incidents produced by the coalition.
On Wednesday, NATO said that an orphaned Afghan boy in Helmand province who was approximately 11 years old -- not knowing your exact age isn't unusual in south Asia -- managed to escape from insurgents planning to use him as a suicide bomber.
The boy, whose name was not given, reportedly told Afghan police that the insurgents gave him money hoping to persuade him to wear a suicide vest and detonate himself near NATO or Afghan army forces, which he refused to do.
NATO also reported Wednesday the arrest earlier in the week of an insurgent leader in eastern Khost province suspected of planning and coordinating roadside bombing attacks throughout the region. The coalition added in a statement that he was responsible for distributing significant quantities of explosives and weapons and for training other insurgents to use homemade bombs.
At the time of his arrest, he may have been trying to infiltrate the Afghan security forces, the coalition added, although it was not immediately clear why a regional leader would be inserting himself into the Afghan armed forces rather than using underlings.
Attacks by Afghan police and troops, as well as insurgents using stolen or otherwise acquired Afghan uniforms, have increased in recent months, sowing distrust between Afghan and coalition forces.
Also on Wednesday, NATO forces reported, a Taliban homemade bomb expert was arrested in eastern Ghazni district. The coalition also reported that Taliban leader Malang was killed Tuesday in a "precision airstrike" in central Wardak province.
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-- Aimal Yaqubi and Mark Magnier