Taliban fighters stepped up counterattacks against Marines and Afghan soldiers in the militant stronghold of Marjah, slowing the allied advance to a crawl despite Afghan government claims that the insurgents are broken and on the run.
Taliban fighters appeared to be slipping under cover of darkness into compounds already deemed free of weapons and explosives, then opening fire on the Marines from behind US lines.
Two NATO servicemembers died on Monday from bomb strikes in Helmand, but neither was part of the Marjah offensive, military spokesman Sgt Kevin Bell said. NATO did not provide their nationalities.
Also yesterday, NATO said five civilians were accidentally killed and two wounded by an airstrike when they were mistakenly believed to have been planting roadside bombs in Kandahar province, east of the Marjah offensive.
The airstrike happened one day after 12 people, half of them children, were killed by two US missiles that struck a house on the outskirts of Marjah. Afghan officials said yesterday that three Taliban fighters were in the house at the time of the attack.
On the third day of the main attack on Marjah, Afghan commanders spoke optimistically yesterday about progress in the town of about 80,000 people, the linchpin of the Taliban logistical and opium poppy smuggling network in the militant-influenced south.