A roadside bomb killed three NATO service members and a gunman shot dead a local peace council official in southern Afghanistan where thousands of Afghan and international troops are bracing for an expected spring resurgence of Taliban attacks, officials said on Sunday.
The coalition said the service members were killed on Saturday. It did not provide any further details, or the nationalities of the troops.
Earlier, NATO reported that a third foreign service member died on Saturday when a coalition helicopter crashed in Alasay district of Kapisa province in the east.
The three deaths brought to 133 the number of NATO troops killed in Afghanistan so far this year.
Also in the south, a gunman assassinated Abdul Zahir, deputy of the Helmand provincial peace council and former top civilian chief in Marjah district, late Saturday in the provincial capital of Lashkar Gah, the Ministry of Interior said today. Zahir also was a member of the local improvement council for the area and a leading member of the Alizai tribe.
Zahir's appointment as Marjah district chief early last year became controversial when court records and news reports in Germany showed that Zahir served part of a more than four-year prison sentence for attempted manslaughter for stabbing his son in 1998. A US official confirmed that Zahir had a criminal record in Germany, but Zahir denied ever spending time in a German jail.
His criminal record was at issue because at the time he was the man tasked with convincing residents of Marjah that the Afghan central government could better provide for them than the Taliban. Afghan and coalition forces launched a major offensive in Marjah in February 2010 to rout insurgents from their strongholds in Helmand. Afterward, Zahir was appointed the face of a new local government a key test of NATO's counterinsurgency strategy.
NATO also confirmed on Sunday that Afghan and coalition forces have killed three leaders of the Haqqani network, an insurgent group with close ties to al-Qaida that operates primarily in Paktika, Paktia and Khost provinces. So far this year, more than 15 Haqqani leaders and more than 130 other insurgents affiliated with the network have been captured or killed.
More than 90 of those captured were taken in Khost province, where the three died on Friday.
Among those killed was Salih Khan, a senior Haqqani leader in Nadir Shah Kot district. According to the coalition, he trained bomb makers, orchestrated car bombings and handled logistics and communications for insurgents in the area.