U.S. Marines in Afghan standoff, 4 die in roadside blast

U.S. Marines scan the site of a blast which hit a U.S. vehicle in Southern Afghanistan.
Four U.S. soldiers were killed Monday by a roadside bomb in the northern Afghanistan province of Kunduz, the U.S. military in Afghanistan said.

The Taliban claimed responsibility for the attack on a U.S. military vehicle. It said five soldiers were killed and two were injured. Meanwhile, a U.S. military official told CNN that its forces are involved in a standoff with insurgents in the south of the country near the Helmand River. He said U.S. Marines began taking fire from insurgents in the town of Khan Neshin, before they ran into a multi-roomed compound. Unsure of whether civilians were inside the compound, they had an interpreter talk to the insurgents, the official said. After some time, a number of women and children left the compound. When asked, the insurgents denied any more civilians were inside, the official said, but the U.S. soldiers held their fire anyway. At about 7:30 a.m. ET, in the midst of the standoff, another group of women and children emerged from the compound, the official said. As of 8 a.m. ET, the Marines were holding all fire and waiting out the insurgents, the official said.

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The Marines’ restrained approach differs from previous hits on compounds when airstrikes were readily called in, the official said. The standoff in the town of Khan Neshin is especially significant because the U.S. military earlier reported that the Afghan government regained control of the town Monday, which was a Taliban stronghold for several years. Coalition forces began talks with local leaders several days ago, and have moved about 500 Marines into Khan Neshin, a U.S. military news release said. With the government takeover of Khan Neshin, it is the first time coalition forces have a sustained presence so far south in the Helmand River valley, the release said. The mission to secure Khan Neshin coincides with “establishing secure conditions” for August elections in Afghanistan, according to the release.