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US Defense Secretary Visits Afghanistan

By VOA News
03 December 2007

U.S. Secretary of Defense Robert Gates is in Afghanistan - his third visit since taking over as head of the Pentagon earlier this year.

Gates is scheduled to hold talks with Afghan President Hamid Karzai on Tuesday. He also is expected to meet with the commanders of U.S. forces and the NATO-led International Security Assistance Force.

Gates told reporters he is concerned with the continuing overall increase in violence in Afghanistan over the past two or three years.

The start of his visit Monday, coincided with a suicide bombing in southwestern Nimroz province. Four people died - including two policemen - when the bomber blew himself up next to a police patrol.

Earlier in the day, U.S.-led coalition forces in Afghanistan reported killing a Taliban commander believed to have been involved in the March kidnapping of an Italian journalist.

A coalition statement said forces on Sunday targeted a vehicle carrying five men, one of whom intelligence reports said was the commander. His name was not revealed. The statement said an aerial missile killed everyone in the vehicle.

The statement said the Taliban commander also was believed to have been responsible for attacks on international military bases and other bombings.

The Italian journalist, Daniele Mastrogiacomo, his driver and his interpreter were kidnapped in March. The driver and interpreter were beheaded, but Mastrogiacomo was freed in a prisoner exchange.

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