KABUL – Two foreign journalists embedded with the U.S. military in Afghanistan were wounded by a roadside bomb, the Associated Press said on Wednesday.
The agency said photographer Emilio Morenatti and TV videographer Andi Jatmiko were traveling with the military when their vehicle was struck by the bomb near Kandahar.
Dozens of journalists have descended on Afghanistan to cover the country's presidential elections on August 20 and at a time when foreign and Afghan troops have launched a major assault against the Taliban.
Morenatti, 40, a Spaniard, based in Islamabad, Pakistan, suffered a wound to the leg that resulted in him losing a foot. Jatmiko, 44, from Indonesia, suffered leg and rib injuries in their bomb blast.
AP President Tom Curley said the injuries reflected the risks that journalists like Emilio and Andi encounter every day as they staff the front lines of the most dangerous spots of the world.
Eighteen journalists were killed in Afghanistan between 1992 and 2008, making it the 11th most dangerous country in the world for media workers, according to the Committee to Protect Journalists.
On Wednesday some 400 U.S. marines staged a helicopter assault in the mountains of Helmand province in southern Afghanistan, part of efforts to secure Taliban-held areas before the election.
The 10,000-strong U.S. Marine Expeditionary Brigade (MEB) in Helmand is the biggest element of a wave of reinforcements sent this year by President Barack Obama in an effort to turn the tide in an eight-year-old war commanders have described as stalemated.
The 400 Marines, accompanied by 100 Afghan soldiers, staged Operation Eastern Resolve II in Nawzad, a district in the north-eastern part of the province, the MEB said in a statement. Operations on that scale take place in Afghanistan regularly.
Taliban militants have vowed to disrupt the Aug 20 election with attacks on polling stations and threats against voters.
The United Nations says intimidation and violence, especially in areas like Helmand, has already disrupted preparations for the vote and campaigning, and could prevent many Afghans from reaching the polls.
Helmand has been the focus of U.S. and NATO effort since U.S. and British forces launched the biggest operations of the eight-year-old war last month. By far Afghanistan's most violent province, it produces the bulk of the world's opium poppy crop.
U.S. commanders say about half of the province was in the grip of the Taliban until the Marines arrived, with 4,000 of them advancing into the southern part of the province in operation Strike of the Sword, last month.
Thousands of British troops, who occupy other parts of Helmand province, launched their own operation Panther's Claw north of the provincial capital Lashkar Gah, facing the heaviest British ground combat casualties in a generation.
The period since the beginning of July has been by far the deadliest of the war for U.S., British and allied troops. More than 100 have now died since the beginning of July.
More Western troops have died since the start of March in Afghanistan than in the entire period from 2001-2004.