BAGRAM AIRFIELD, Afghanistan, June 16, 2006 – A coalition soldier died yesterday of apparent natural causes, possibly a heart attack, officials here reported today. A fellow soldier discovered his roommate unconscious and unresponsive in his quarters shortly after morning physical training. Emergency services were called and CPR was administered at the scene. The victim was taken to Camp Lacey, the U.S. hospital here, but could not be revived. Actual cause of death has yet to be determined.
"We sincerely regret the loss of our soldier today," said Maj. Gen. Benjamin C. Freakley, commander, Combined Joint Task Force 76. "Our thoughts and prayers are with his family, friends and fellow soldiers." In other news, coalition forces concluded an operation yesterday in Paktika province that resulted in the estimated deaths of at least 40 insurgents. The mission included close-air support and ground operations to capture or kill top insurgent leadership. The engagement was part of Operation Mountain Thrust, the large-scale effort by Afghan national security forces and the coalition to defeat extremist forces in southern Afghanistan
The Paktika province mission began in the early morning hours June 14 and started with an air strike targeting terrorists at a remote, mountainous stronghold, several kilometers from the village of Orgun-e. Coalition ground forces subsequently moved in following the air strike to conduct a thorough site investigation, coming under fire and encountering numerous well-fortified and concealed fighting positions manned by aggressive fighters. Indications were that the area was heavily used by both foot and vehicular traffic.
Coalition forces destroyed remaining enemy elements, including several terrorist fighting positions, over the next 24-hour period, capturing one enemy wounded in the fighting. That fighter was evacuated and treated by coalition forces. One coalition servicemember was wounded during the initial insertion of ground forces. Coalition forces at the location estimate at least 40 enemy fighters were killed during the fighting. Since January extremists have killed 10 innocent civilians by roadside bombs and other attacks. Four schools have been damaged or destroyed in an attempt to deny Afghan youth of an education. Just yesterday, officials reported, extremists dropped mortars on village in Bermel killing four and injuring 10 civilians.
"The operation in Patika province is in support of Operation Mountain Thrust, our offensive, that we will relentlessly pursue extremists, and that we will remove their negative influence," said Maj. Eric Zenk, spokesman for Task Force Spartan, a U.S.-led force in central and eastern Afghanistan. "Our efforts will enable progress in areas dominated by extremists who are standing in the way of security, economic and future progress and against those who intimidate and threaten the people of Afghanistan."
Elsewhere, a joint Afghan National Police and coalition patrol repelled an insurgent ambush by a reported 75 enemy fighters in the Shajoy district of Zabul province on June 14. Seven insurgents have been confirmed killed. Three were captured by coalition forces. Three ANP were killed in the attack. Two coalition soldiers suffered minor wounds and were treated at the scene. Following the initial engagement, coalition forces took the offensive, forcing the enemy to flee to a nearby compound. Afghan police and coalition forces conducted a cordon and search of a compound. No more extremists were found, but the joint forces seized materials used to build improvised explosive devices.
"ANP and coalition forces successfully repelled a determined enemy attack and transitioned to the offensive, forcing the extremists to flee," said Major Nancy Hansen, spokesperson for Task Force Aegis, a multinational force in southeastern Afghanistan. "The coalition will continue working with Afghan forces to bring an end to such violence. "Our sincerest condolences go out to the families of those brave policemen killed while defending their country and fellow citizens," she said. "Their sacrifice will not be forgotten."