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Suicide Bomber Kills 5 Americans

A suicide car bomb attack on a NATO convoy in the Afghan capital on Tuesday killed five U.S. troops and a Canadian officer and has put 2010 on a pace to become the deadliest year of the war.

The attack in Kabul also killed 12 Afghan civilians and pushed the U.S. death toll to 992 for the 9-year-old war, according to a USA TODAY analysis of Pentagon data. The U.S. military announced on Tuesday the death of a Marine killed during operations two days earlier in Helmand province.

The attack on the NATO convoy comes as the U.S. military prepares to launch a major operation in the southern Kandahar province, a Taliban stronghold, in the coming weeks.

There's been a steady increase in the U.S. death toll over the past two years after the Taliban resurgence in much of southern Afghanistan. The U.S. death toll in 2010 is more than double what it was for the first five months of 2009 - the deadliest year of the war - and triple what it was for the first five months of 2008.

The U.S. military is in the midst of a 30,000-troop buildup in Afghanistan, part of an effort by President Obama to turn around the war. About 20,000 of the extra troops have arrived in Afghanistan, according to the Pentagon.

The upcoming months will be bloodier as U.S. troops attempt to push the Taliban out of Kandahar and other areas, said Caroline Wadhams, the director of South Asia Security Studies at the Center for American Progress. "We're putting more troops on the ground and more in the south where the security is more difficult," she said. "I think it's inevitable we're going to see more violence, because there are going to be more targets."

Tuesday's attack involved a suicide car bomb, but the roadside bomb, or improvised explosive device (IED), has increasingly become the weapon of choice for the Taliban, Pentagon records show.

The Taliban is particularly active in five southern provinces - Helmand, Kandahar, Khost, Uruzgan and Ghazni. In March, those provinces accounted for about 80 percent of all IED incidents in Afghanistan, according to an analysis by Anthony Cordesman of the Center for Strategic and International Studies.

There has been a 16 percent increase in IED incidents from January to March, and many of those bombs were placed in Helmand province, site of a major U.S. offensive this year, according to a recent Pentagon report.

The Taliban claimed responsibility for Tuesday's blast, spokesman Zabiullah Mujahid told the Associated Press.

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