Taliban insurgents killed three prominent local government officials and at least nine other people in three separate attacks in southern Afghanistan.
The attacks came as the insurgents continued to hold the strategic district of Musa Qala in Helmand Province, which fell to them on Wednesday, in the face of what witnesses described as an intense bombardment by American warplanes.
The tempo of Taliban attacks in the south, and on so many different fronts, was worrisome in itself, even as the insurgents continued to press government forces on new fronts they had opened in northern Afghanistan in recent months, in Badakhshan, Faryab, and Kunduz Provinces. In the past four days, at least 50 government soldiers, police officers, militiamen, and officials are known to have been killed throughout the country.
The attacks in the south have already drawn American forces deeper into the conflict than at any point since their combat role officially ended Dec. 31. As the Musa Qala District fell on Wednesday, members of a United States Air Force Special Tactics Squadron were rushed into Camp Bastion, recently renamed Camp Antonik, the military headquarters of Helmand Province.
American military officials said the soldiers deployed there — believed to number 90 Special Operations troops — were part of the NATO and American-led coalition’s noncombat, “train, advise and assist” mission. On their first night, however, as they returned from a late-night operation to the base, now run by Afghans, they were challenged by Afghan guards. Two of them were killed in the ensuing firefight. The nature of the late-night operation was unclear.
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