01/31/2004

Fla. Officer Killed Serving in Afghanistan

Officer Down: Curtis Mancini - [Davie, Florida]

The Associated Press

DAVIE, Fla. -- A Davie police officer was among at least seven American soldiers killed when a weapons cache exploded in Afghanistan, city officials said. An eighth soldier is listed as "presumed deceased" by military officials.

Curtis Mancini, 43, died in the blast Thursday near Ghazni city, about 90 miles southwest of Kabul. Mancini, an Army Sergeant First Class, was assigned to the 2nd Battalion Infantry, 10th Mountain Division.

Military officers said a mortar round exploded during a training exercise. Afghan officials called it an accident, but Lt. Col. Bryan Hilferty, a spokesman at U.S. military headquarters in Kabul, said its investigators were still looking into the explosion to pinpoint its cause.

Mancini, who also served about a year in Iraq, had recently been redeployed after spending the holidays at home, officials said.

"He told his mother, `I need to do this now so that my children and other people's children won't need to do it later.' He was a soldier's soldier," said his father, John Mancini of Lincoln, R.I., who served 35 years in the Army and retired as a sergeant major.

Mancini was born December 12, 1960 in Fort Bragg, N.C. and went to high school in Rhode Island. He graduated from Barry University in Miami, and was working on a masters' degree there when he was called back to active duty.

He joined the Davie police in 1987 and later was appointed to the Drug Enforcement Administration. Mancini returned to the Davie police as a training officer four years ago.

"He was well-liked by the community and the people that knew him," Davie police chief John George said. "It's going to be a difficult set of shoes to fill. I don't know if we ever will."

Mancini was an avid sportsman and motorcyclist, friends said. He ran several marathons.

"Every time I ever saw him run, he wore an American flag bandanna on his head," said Mike Kenny, one of Mancini's running partners.

The blast occurred as the soldiers worked around the cache of rifle ammunition and mortar rounds. Coalition soldiers regularly uncover and destroy caches of weapons, much of it dating to the U.S.-backed resistance against the Soviet occupation.

Danger and instability still plagues Afghanistan two years after a U.S.-led invasion ousted the hard-line Islamic Taliban regime for harboring Osama bin Laden and the al-Qaida network. About 80 people died in violent incidents in Afghanistan in January alone, including civilians, police officers, peacekeepers and now American soldiers.

Mancini is survived by three children. Funeral arrangements are pending.

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