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Taliban rocket kills two U.S. soldiers

KABUL, Afghanistan, June 21 (UPI) -- Two U.S. soldiers were killed and six others wounded Sunday in a rocket attack inside a heavily fortified compound in Afghanistan, the military said.

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The wounded -- four U.S. service members and two U.S. civilians -- were treated at a medical facility inside Bagram Air Field, located about 25 miles north of Kabul.

The Taliban claimed responsibility for the attack on Bagram, the Los Angeles Times reported, noting the rocket attack was the third to penetrate Bagram since January.

The attack brought the U.S. death toll in Afghanistan to at least 81 so far this year, reported icasualties.org, a private Internet site that tracks combat deaths. At least 94 U.S. soldiers have died in combat in Iraq so far this year, the site said.

Sunday's attack came just hours after two U.S. National Guard soldiers were killed by a roadside bomb in Kandahar and a U.S. soldier was killed by insurgents in eastern Afghanistan, the Times reported.


British army faces drastic cuts

LONDON, June 21 (UPI) -- A plan to cut British troops to the lowest level since the 1850s Crimean War is "sheer lunacy," the editor of a top military guide said.

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Britain's defense ministry has proposed cutting three infantry battalions -- about 1,800 soldiers -- which would reduce overall troop numbers to less than 100,000, The Times of London reported Sunday.

"If we were to withdraw from Afghanistan it would be fine but with the government saying operations there will go on for 10 years it is sheer lunacy," said Charles Heyman, a former officer who edits The Armed Forces of the United Kingdom.

"It will do severe damage to morale within the infantry and within the wider army," Heyman predicted.

While defense officials declined to discuss the plan publicly, the budget cuts were the focus of a high-level meeting last week in London, an anonymous military source told the Times.

"This is the opening move in what could be the bloodiest spending round yet," the source told the Times.


Somalia seeks military help from neighbors

MOGADISHU, Somalia, June 21 (UPI) -- A top Somalian official is seeking help from the country's neighbors saying emergency military backup is needed to keep Islamist rebels in check.

Militants with ties to al-Qaida can only be repelled with help from Yemen, Kenya, Djibouti and Ethiopia, Parliament Speaker Sheik Aden Mohamed Nur Madobe said Saturday.

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In two days of heavy fighting, the militants established strongholds in north Mogadishu, forcing thousands of people to flee neighborhoods that once provided refuge from violence in other parts of the capital city, Voice of America reported Sunday.

In separate attacks last week, rebels killed Omar Hashi Aden, Somalia's security minister, and Mohammed Hussein Adow, a prominent lawmaker, VOA reported.

Kenya said it was considering sending troops to Somalia but had taken no action as of Sunday.

"We will not sit back and watch the situation in Somalia deteriorate beyond where it is," Kenyan Foreign Minister Moses Wetangula said Friday. "We have a duty -- a constitutional duty as a country and as a government -- to protect our strategic interests including our security."


Teens arrested in attacks on Romanians

BELFAST, Northern Ireland, June 21 (UPI) -- Two teenagers in Northern Ireland have been charged with attacking the homes of more than 100 Romanians in south Belfast, police said.

The suspects, ages 15 and 16, were arrested Saturday and charged with provocative conduct in last Tuesday's window smashing attacks, CNN reported Sunday.

The families, including more than 40 children and a 5-day-old baby, took shelter in a church and were moved to the campus of Queen's University until their homes were repaired and the crime solved, the Romanian Embassy in London said.

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Northern Ireland's government has apologized for the attacks, the Romanian Embassy said.

The victims are Roma, an impoverished ethnic group who live primarily in the south and east of Europe. In Ireland, most of the Roma work low-paid jobs such as washing cars and selling newspapers, said Vincent Parker, a Sinn Fein party member who visited the families after the attacks.

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