Two U.S. troops killed by roadside bomb in Afghanistan

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Two U.S. service members were killed and two others injured when their vehicle was hit by a roadside bomb in southern Afghanistan, the U.S. military said in a statement Jan. 11.

The Defense Department identified the dead as Staff Sgt. Ian P. McLaughlin and Pfc. Miguel A. Villalon. Both soldiers were on their first combat deployments.

McLaughlin, 29, was from Newport News, Va., while Villalon, 21, was a native of Joliet, Ill. Both soldiers were assigned to the 307th Brigade Engineer Battalion, 3rd Brigade Combat Team, 82nd Airborne Division out of Fort Bragg, N.C.

The two injured service members have not been identified.

The Taliban immediately took responsibility for the attack. Qari Yusouf Ahmadi, a Taliban spokesman, said it occurred in the southern Kandahar province.

More than 2,400 U.S. service members have been killed in Afghanistan. Last year was one of the deadliest for the United States, even as Washington engaged in peace talks with the Taliban.

The latest attack seemed certain to stall fresh efforts to restart the on-again, off-again peace talks between Washington and the Taliban. U.S. peace envoy Zalmay Khalilzad has been pressing the insurgents to agree to a cease-fire or at least reduce violent attacks.

Earlier, both NATO and Afghan officials had confirmed a roadside bomb hit a U.S. army vehicle Saturday, without mentioning casualties. In a short statement, a NATO spokesman said that officials were still “assessing the situation and will provide more information as it became available.”

An Afghan official said the attack had taken place in the Dand district of Kandahar province. The official was not authorized to speak with media and requested anonymity.

The Taliban now control or hold sway over roughly half of Afghanistan. The militants continue to stage near-daily attacks targeting Afghan and U.S. forces, even as they hold peace talks with the U.S. Scores of Afghan civilians are also killed in the crossfire or by roadside bombs planted by militants.

In November, two U.S. service members were killed when their helicopter crashed in eastern Logar province. The U.S. military at the time said preliminary reports did not indicate it was caused by enemy fire, though the Taliban claimed to have shot down the helicopter — a claim the U.S military dismissed as false.

U.S. Ambassador John Bass left Kabul last week, ending his two-year tenure as America’s top diplomat.

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