KANDAHAR, AFGHANISTAN // A roadside bomb hit a convoy carrying the mayor of a key southern city today, killing a passer-by, while the US coalition and Afghan special forces killed five militants in the same region. The mayor of Kandahar survived the blast, which killed a civilian and wounded two others, said Najibullah Khan, a police spokesman. Separately, US coalition and Afghan special forces conducting a raid in Kandahar's Maywand district - targeting a network supporting foreign fighters in the area - killed five militants "who manoeuvred on the force ... during the operation," a US military statement said.
Southern Afghanistan is the centre of the Taliban-led insurgency, which has made a comeback the last three years after what appeared to be an initial defeat following the US invasion in 2001. Thousands of new US troops are joining British, Canadian and Dutch forces in the region to battle insurgents and extend governance. In eastern Afghanistan, meanwhile, a French soldier and five Afghan troops were killed during a clash with militants in Kapisa province, officials said.
Cmdr Christophe Prazuck, a spokesman for the French defence ministry, said yesterday's operation involved air support from Predator drones and other allied aircraft, and that dozens of militants "were hit hard". He didn't provide casualty estimates. France has 3,300 troops fighting in Nato and US-led military operations in Afghanistan. Cmdr Prazuck said yesterday's death brought to 27 the number of French soldiers who have died during the war there. Rahmatullah Safi, Kapisa's deputy governor, said five Afghan soldiers were also killed in the operation.