- Associated Press - Sunday, August 29, 2010

KABUL, Afghanistan | Seven U.S. troops have died in weekend attacks in Afghanistan’s embattled southern and eastern regions, while officials found the bodies Sunday of five kidnapped campaign aides working for a female candidate in the western province of Herat.

Two servicemen died in bombings Sunday in southern Afghanistan, while two others were killed in a bomb attack in the south on Saturday, and three in fighting in the east the same day, NATO said. Their identities and other details were being withheld until relatives could be notified.

The latest deaths bring to 42 the number of American forces who have died this month in Afghanistan after July’s high of 66. A total of 62 international forces have died in the country this month, including seven British soldiers.

Fighting is intensifying with the addition of 30,000 U.S. troops to bring the total number of international forces in Afghanistan to 140,000 — 100,000 of them American. Most of those new troops have been assigned to the southern insurgent strongholds of Helmand and Kandahar provinces, where major battles are fought almost daily as part of a gathering drive to push out the Taliban.

The five campaign workers were snatched Wednesday by armed men who stopped their two-vehicle convoy as it drove through remote countryside. Five others traveling in the vehicles had earlier been set free, according to a man who answered the phone at the home of candidate Fawzya Galani and declined to give his name.

Residents of Herat’s Adraskan district reported finding the bodies early Sunday. They were later taken to the local morgue for identification by family members, district chief Nasar Ahmad Popul said.

No one has taken responsibility for the killings, although Taliban insurgents have waged a campaign of murder and intimidation against candidates and election workers in hopes of sabotaging the Sept. 18 parliamentary elections for the 249 seats in the lower house.

In a similar attack in Herat, male parliamentary candidate Abdul Manan was fatally shot Saturday on his way to a mosque by an assassin riding on the back of a motorcycle.

Meanwhile Sunday, two suicide bombers attempted to climb over the back wall of a compound housing the governor of the far western province of Farah, but were spotted by guards and shot, provincial police Chief Mohammad Faqir Askir said.

The men’s vests exploded, although it wasn’t clear whether they detonated themselves or because they were hit by bullets, Chief Askir said.

The explosions blasted a chunk out of the wall and blew out windows in the compound, but there were no other reports of deaths or injuries, he said.

NATO said eight insurgents were killed in joint Afghan-NATO operations Saturday night in the province of Paktiya, including a Taliban commander, Naman, accused of coordinating roadside bomb attacks and the movement of ammunition, supplies and fighters.

Automatic weapons, grenades, magazines and bomb-making materials were found in buildings in Zormat district along the mountainous border with Pakistan. Afghan leaders frequently complain that Pakistan is doing too little to prevent cross-border incursions and shut down insurgent safe havens inside its territory.

Just to the south in Khost province, U.S. and Afghan troops raised the death toll among insurgents to more than 30 in simultaneous attacks Saturday by about 50 fighters on Forward Operating Base Salerno and nearby Camp Chapman, where seven CIA employees died in a suicide attack in December.

Insurgents wore replica American uniforms and at least 13 had strapped themselves into suicide bomb vests, NATO said.

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