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Reporting from Kabul — Taliban insurgents killed six members of the American-dominated international military force in southern Afghanistan in a single attack Sunday, Western officials announced.
A news release from NATO's International Security Assistance Force headquarters in Kabul, the Afghan capital, gave no further details about the attack, or the nationalities of the service members killed.
The New York Times, which has a reporter and photographer traveling with American forces in southern Afghanistan, reported that all six soldiers killed were U.S. troops at a remote outpost near the town of Zhari, in Kandahar province. In an online report it said the outpost was hit by a suicide bomber driving an explosives-laden minibus and that the blast also injured at least a dozen U.S. and Afghan soldiers, who were taken by helicopter to a nearby base.
Authorities in Helmand and Kandahar provinces, the primary battlefield of the Taliban insurgency against the international forces and Afghanistan's central government, said they had no further information about the attacks.
The attack capped a weekend of violence that left dozens of civilians and suspected insurgents dead and wounded across Afghanistan.
In the eastern province of Paktia, people threw stones during a protest over the killing of seven suspected insurgents by U.S.-led forces Saturday morning, the official Bakhtar news agency reported. Residents described the victims as guards working for a road construction company near the city of Gardez.
NATO-led forces issued a statement describing the men as suspected insurgents possibly connected to the Haqqani network, one of the factions allied with the Taliban. It said they refused to relinquish their weapons and opened fire on Americans. The police chief of Paktia told the Bakhtar news agency that the seven were killed in a coalition airstrike.
The spokesman for Afghanistan's Ministry of Internal Affairs, which oversees the national police, told reporters that insurgents launched 78 attacks, including three suicide bombings, during the last week, mostly in the south and east.
Ministry spokesman Zemarai Bashary also said 12 civilians were killed last week, a figure that did not square with other official figures, and that 37 insurgents were killed and 121 arrested.
Meanwhile in Washington, the State Department said that Richard Holbrooke, the Obama administration's special envoy to Afghanistan and Pakistan, remained in critical condition Sunday at George Washington University Hospital. Holbrooke was hospitalized Friday and underwent emergency surgery to repair a tear in his aorta.
Holbrooke had an additional procedure Sunday to improve circulation. He was visited by family, friends, colleagues and staff, and his wife, Kati Marton, received calls from the presidents of Afghanistan and Pakistan, State Department spokesman Philip J. Crowley said.
"He had a tremendously difficult situation Friday," David Axelrod, an aide to President Obama, said in an interview with CNN. "Anyone who knows him — and I was with him Friday morning before this happened — knows how tough and resilient he is."
The Obama administration is set to issue a long-awaited report card this week assessing U.S. strategy in Afghanistan.
Times staff writer Katherine Skiba in Washington and special correspondent Aimal Yaqubi in Kabul contributed to this report.