UPDATE 2:51 p.m. EST -- The U.S. soldiers who came under fire Tuesday in Afghanistan's Helmand province had been there for weeks while conducting a range of missions, including training and advising Afghan troops fighting the Taliban, the Pentagon said, according to a news alert from BreakingNews.com.
Brig. Gen. Wilson A. Shoffner, a spokesperson for U.S. Forces-Afghanistan, the international military coalition in Afghanistan, issued a brief statement Tuesday offering "heartfelt sympathies" following the news that one American soldier had been killed and two others injured as a result of the attack.
LATEST: DOD: One US service member killed, 2 others wounded during operations in Helmand Province, Afghanistan. pic.twitter.com/pcbj97xGHZ
— ABC News (@ABC) January 5, 2016
UPDATE: 11 a.m. EST — An American soldier was killed and two others wounded after heavy fighting broke out Tuesday in the Helmand Province in Afghanistan, U.S. officials told the Washington Post. U.S. Special Forces troops were involved in counterterrorism operations when they came under attack. The province has seen an uptick in violence in recent weeks.
An unknown number of U.S. soldiers were killed or wounded in Afghanistan Tuesday following two separate attacks in the country's south, NBC News reported. U.S. forces were engaged in counterterrorism operations in the Helmand Province when they came under attack.
A helicopter attempting to rescue the soldiers landed safely, officials said, despite early reports that it came under attack and may have gone down. It was not immediately clear whether the helicopter was targeted.
— CNN (@CNN) January 5, 2016
The Taliban has pushed to retake several key towns in the region in recent weeks, including Sangin, Marja and Lashkar Gar, the provincial capital, the Washington Post reported. Although the Taliban has faced a leadership struggle since August, shortly after its leader, Mullah Omar, was confirmed dead, the group has seen some success in capturing territory. News of Omar’s death created a power vacuum, causing the group to split.
Fresh fighting also broke out in eastern Afghanistan Tuesday between the Taliban and the Islamic State group, aka ISIS, resulting in dozens of deaths on both sides. Battles between the rival militant groups erupted when hundreds of Taliban fighters launched assaults against ISIS bases and managed to retake two districts from the organization.
— NBC Nightly News (@NBCNightlyNews) January 5, 2016
Afghanistan has seen rising violence in recent months; the Taliban has gained ground, and ISIS has made inroads into the war-ravaged country. Al Qaeda, a longtime U.S. enemy, has recently seen a revival, the New York Times reported last month, as new training camps have sprouted up.
In October, U.S. President Barack Obama pushed back a planned withdrawal date amid the rising violence and the growth of extremist groups. The attack on U.S. soldiers Tuesday marked the first reported casualties of 2016.