KABUL, Afghanistan – A U.S.-led coalition soldier and 10 suspected Taliban militants died in the latest clashes to roil southern and eastern Afghanistan, while security was tightened in Kabul after a series of bombings, officials said Thursday.
The attacks have raised fears that Taliban militants are bringing their fight to the capital, nearly five years after their ouster in a U.S.-backed military campaign.
In eastern Afghanistan, militants opened fire on a coalition patrol in Paktika's Gayan district, killing one soldier. A 10-year old girl was also wounded in Wednesday's firefight, and was in stable condition after surgery, a coalition statement said.
The statement did not identify the dead soldier or give a nationality.
President Hamid Karzai vowed that bombings targeting government officials and army officers in Kabul on Tuesday and Wednesday, killing one person and wounding about 60, wouldn't shake Afghans' hopes for peace.
"The enemies of Afghanistan once again showed by attacking innocent civilians that they want to bring misery and destruction to Afghanistan, but the people of Afghanistan will never allow this to happen," Karzai said from Tokyo, where he's attending a conference. "Afghanistan will continue to rebuild its security institutions and these incidents will never hurt the desire of the Afghan people for a better future."
Extra police manned checkpoints in the city Thursday, amid a growing sense of unease. Kabul has been largely spared the violence that has wracked eastern and southern parts of the country this year, leaving hundreds dead, but the bombings have reawakened some fears.
"The big problem for the people here is there is no security," said Tamim Ansar, an 18-year-old student, who lives near downtown Kabul where a remote-controlled bomb exploded Tuesday. "Everyone is very worried."
The attacks have highlighted the need for the public and security forces to be more vigilant in rooting out potential insurgents, said Maj. Luke Knittig, spokesman for the NATO-led International Security Assistance Force, which helps patrol Kabul.
"It is not an easy threat to counter or eliminate. Patrols and the presence of security forces help. Afghans telling us when they see some thing on the street that doesn't look right helps," he said.
Meanwhile in the south, Afghan and coalition forces continued operations against Taliban fighters trying to reassert their control over their former Pashtun tribal heartland, with a wave of deadly ambushes and suicide attacks.
Ten suspected militants and an Afghan soldier were killed Wednesday in volatile Zabul province.
Security forces launched operations near Mount Zubaida, killing three suspected Taliban fighters and arresting four others, said provincial police chief Noor Mohammad Paktin.
Four other militants were killed and six arrested during search operations in Shingai district, he said. One Afghan soldier was killed and three wounded when they came under militant attack in Naubahar district, where three insurgents also were killed, he said.
More than 10,000 coalition and government forces have been deployed to hunt for Taliban fighters in the south. At least 700 people have been killed in violence since May, mostly militants.