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Afghanistan gripped by worst fighting since 2001
Two French special forces troops and a US soldier were among 34 combatants killed in Afghanistan in a fresh upsurge of the deadliest fighting since the removal of the Taliban in 2001. In the worst clash, militants hiding in a vineyard ambushed an Afghan army convoy, shooting dead four soldiers but losing 15 of their own.
Fears of a resurgence of the Taliban have been fuelled by a sharp rise in violence during recent weeks, much of it in Helmand province, where 3,300 British troops are deploying. Some 120 people died in 24 hours last week before a brief respite, but attacks resumed on Friday, claiming another 34 lives by Saturday afternoon.
The two French died yesterday while fighting the Taliban in Kandahar province, the French Defence Ministry said. It gave no further details. France has had 200 special forces officers in south-eastern Afghanistan since 2003 as part of the US-led coalition.
The American soldier was killed and six others wounded on Friday in Uruzgan province, also in the south, when a joint patrol with Afghan forces encountered enemy fighters. Uruzgan had seen some of the heaviest fighting within the past year, but militants suffered high losses in battles with coalition forces.
Helmand, the main opium poppy-growing region, where drug profits are believed to fund the insurgency, has become the main focus of violence, but the past week has also seen attacks in Zabul province and the western city of Herat.