A roadside bombing killed four U.S. service members, the first American combat deaths of the year in Afghanistan, while a British soldier died during a foot patrol elsewhere in the volatile south of the country, officials said Monday.
A statement from NATO's International Security Assistance Force said the explosion that killed the U.S. service members took place Sunday in the south, but did not give further details on the location or the victims' branch of service.
The deaths are the first U.S. fatalities from hostile action in Afghanistan this year. One U.S. service member has died of noncombat causes so far in 2010.
The British soldier died while on foot patrol Sunday in Helmand province, the British Ministry of Defense said.
Afghan insurgents are increasingly turning to improvised explosive devices — also called roadside bombs — in their fight against Afghan and international forces. Of the 304 U.S. military deaths in Afghanistan last year, 129 were due to IEDs, according to a tally by The Associated Press.
The Afghan Defense Ministry said its soldiers killed more than 10 Taliban fighters in heavy fighting Sunday in northern Kunduz province's Imam Sahib district, which borders Tajikistan. One soldier was wounded in the clash, the ministry said.
Also Monday, NATO said a joint Afghan-international force discovered a huge cache of marijuana and turned it over to police for destruction. NATO said the cache contained up to 800 cubic meters (28,000 cubic feet) of marijuana; that's the equivalent of about seven standard semi-trailers.
As the U.S. and other Western nations have tried to help Afghanistan stamp out its poppy fields — the country is the world's leading opium producer — an increasing number of farmers have turned to marijuana, which is receiving less attention from authorities.
The Interior Ministry said 106 kilograms (256 pounds) of heroin were seized Sunday in an operation in Badakhshan province and that 1,900 kilograms (4,100 pounds) of opium were incinerated Sunday in Helmand province in a joint operation of counternarcotics police and U.S. Marines.
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