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French soldier killed in Afghanistan, Canadian hurt

Written by: Staff
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KANDAHAR, Afghanistan, March 4 (Reuters) Taliban rebels killed a French soldier in a clash in southern Afghanistan today and a roadside bomb killed an Afghan intelligence agent and four other Afghans.

A Canadian soldier from the U S-led foreign force was also seriously wounded in a clash in the Shahwali Kot district of Kandahar, Canadian spokesman Lieutenant Mark MacIntyre said.

U S spokesman Colonel Jim Yonts said at least one Taliban guerrilla was killed in that clash and two were killed in the one in which the French soldier died, elsewhere in the volatile province of Kandahar.

The wounded Canadian would be evacuated to a US military hospital at Landstuhl in Germany, the spokesman said.

Today's bloodshed came as U S President George W Bush was in neighbouring Pakistan discussing ways to improve cooperation in the U S-led war on terrorism.

Taliban spokesman Qari Mohammad Yousuf said the rebels planted the bomb which killed the Afghans in Helmand province, neighbouring Kandahar, as part of a campaign to overthrow the U S-backed government. He said nine people were killed.

The blast in Nadali district of Helmand killed Mohammad Ali Borak, a local official of the National Security Administration, said Asadullah Sherzad, head of the agency in the province.

''It was a remote-controlled bomb,'' Sherzad told Reuters, adding that an Afghan electrician who had been travelling in the same vehicle as Borak and his three bodyguards were also killed.

LATEST CANADIAN CASUALTY The attack was the latest in a spate on insurgent violence to hit Helmand. Yesterday, Taliban gunmen killed the chief government official in Sangin district, hours after police killed eight guerrillas and captured 10 in a two-hour battle.

The Canadian casualty was just the latest suffered by their 2,300-strong contingent in Kandahar this week.

Five Canadian soldiers were also hurt yesterday, one seriously, in a suspected suicide car bombing that followed a wave of such attacks in recent months that have killed dozens of people.

On Thursday, a Canadian soldier was killed and seven hurt when their vehicle overturned. Police said it was an accident and brought Canadian fatalities in Afghanistan to at least 10 since 2001.

Bush made a brief stop in Afghanistan on Wednesday and ahead of his visit the Afghan government repeatedly complained Taliban guerrillas were able to operate from Pakistan -- the main backer of the militants before joining the U S-led war on terrorism.

U S-led forces overthrew the Taliban in 2001 for refusing to give up Osama bin Laden and other al Qaeda leaders responsible for the September 11 attacks.

Bin Laden remains at large and an intensified insurgency has claimed more than 1,500 lives since the start of last year.

The violence in Helmand comes as British troops set up bases as part of an expanded NATO deployment aimed at allowing Washington to cut its troop numbers in Afghanistan.

In Islamabad, Bush said he was convinced of Pakistani President Pervez Musharraf's commitment to the war on terrorism, but stressed more cooperation was needed to win to defeat terrorist, some of whom were ''lodged'' in Pakistan.

REUTERS PM KP2144

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