Afghan bomb kills four U.S. soldiers

KABUL, Afghanistan – A roadside bomb blast in eastern Afghanistan killed four American soldiers on Monday, while two NATO soldiers died elsewhere and a battle in the country’s poppy-growing heartland killed more than 50 suspected militants.

A purported Taliban spokesman, meanwhile, said the hard-line militia has extended its deadline for the lives of 23 South Korean hostages until tonight.

The bomb blast came against U.S. soldiers conducting a combat patrol in the eastern province of Paktika, Gov. Mohammad Ekram Akhpelwak said.

Norway said one if its soldiers was killed in Logar province, and NATO said another soldier was killed in the south, though the nationality was not made public.

The six deaths bring to 114 the number of Western soldiers killed in Afghanistan this year, including 54 Americans, according to an Associated Press count.

In Helmand province, the U.S.-led coalition and Afghan soldiers “routed” a large number of Taliban fighters in a two-day battle, killing more than 50 suspected militants, the coalition said.

The battle in Sangin district saw the insurgents attempt to shoot down a coalition aircraft and attack soldiers with a suicide car bomb, the coalition said in a statement. Coalition aircraft dropped four bombs during the engagement, and Afghan forces counted “more than four dozen” insurgents killed, it said.

Qari Yousef Ahmadi, who claims to speak for the Taliban, said the militants extended the deadline on the South Korean aid workers another day after the Afghan government refused to release any of the 23 Taliban prisoners the insurgents want freed.

The militants have pushed back their ultimatum on the Koreans’ fate at least three times. Afghan officials in Ghazni province have met the militants in person and are also negotiating over the phone, but little progress appears to have been made so far.

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