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updated: 11/19/2010 8:16 AM

Lombard resident, Daily Herald correspondent injured in Afghanistan

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  • Matthew Spartz

      Matthew Spartz

 
Daily Herald staff and wire reports

Lt. Matthew Spartz, a Lombard resident and freelance correspondent for the Daily Herald, was wounded in a battle in Afghanistan in which at least five U.S. soldiers were killed.

Spartz said a bullet ricochet hit him in the right bicep.

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"Besides feeling like I played a five-day football game, I'm fine," he said in an e-mail. "Unfortunately, we had six warriors who did not make it. It's a rough time for the company."

Spartz, who writes on a variety of topics from the front lines, is a 2008 journalism graduate of the University of Illinois. He was deployed to Afghanistan in May, and was stationed in the Pech Valley as recently as Nov. 3, according to his blog.

NATO released the first details Thursday of an insurgent attack on Sunday that killed five American soldiers. A sixth died in a separate skirmish on Tuesday.

U.S. forces were trying to route militants from a volatile valley in the eastern province of Kunar when they came under fire, according to NATO.

The area along Afghanistan's eastern border with Pakistan has continued to see heavy fighting as NATO focuses most of its efforts on a troop surge in the south aimed at breaking Taliban strongholds there.

Also Thursday, NATO announced two more deaths in the south one from a bomb explosion and the other in an insurgent attack. The military alliance said both soldiers died Wednesday but did not provide details nor were their nationalities disclosed.

Thirty-nine NATO service members have been killed so far this month in Afghanistan, including at least 33 Americans.

The five American soldiers who died Sunday were "conducting clearing operations" when they came under fire in Watapur valley, said Master Sgt. Brian Sipp, a spokesman for the international military alliance.

Sipp did not say how many troops were involved in the fight, nor provide an estimate of the number of attackers. The fighting started around 2 p.m. and lasted at least six hours, he said, with the wounded and the killed not being evacuated until late that evening.

Another American soldier died in the area Tuesday when insurgents fired on his unit, according to the military.

All six deaths occurred during a four-day push called Operation Bulldog Bite to search out militants and weapons caches near the Pech River.

The area has long been a transit route for insurgents coming over from the Pakistan border and has proved a tricky area for U.S. forces trying to secure the mountainous terrain and coax villagers away from supporting the insurgents and criminals who control much of the area.

Watapur is just 5 miles from the Korengal valley, where U.S. troops ceased operations seven months ago, saying that it was not strategically important. Forty-two Americans died in Korengal before the troops pulled out.

Operation Bulldog Bite has killed at least five insurgents, though there have been unconfirmed reports of as many as 49 insurgents killed, said Maj. Mary Constantino, a spokeswoman for U.S. forces in the area.

In addition, the forces found weapons caches containing mortar systems with rounds, more than a dozen rocket-propelled grenades, 20 anti-aircraft rounds

"Operation Bulldog Bite has degraded the insurgents' ability to terrorize the people of the Pech valley," Constantino said.

Three Afghan soldiers were also killed in the operation, said Gen. Khalilullah Zaiyi, the Kunar province police chief. He said about 30 insurgents were killed.

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