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Coalition soldier, 12 Taliban die in Afghan clashes

Written by: Staff

KABUL, July 6 (Reuters) Gunmen attacked a patrol of US-led soldiers in eastern Afghanistan killing one member of the force, the latest foreign soldier to die in the bloodiest phase of Afghan violence since 2001.

The US military said the patrol came under small-arms fire in Paktika province, on the border with Pakistan, yesterday.

It did not give the nationality of the soldier who was killed but US forces are in charge in that area.

A British member of the force was killed in a clash in the southern province of Helmand, also yesterday.

Violence by Taliban rebels has surged in Afghanistan this year to its worst level since the militants were ousted nearly five years ago.

Most of the bloodshed has been in the south and east.

The US-led coalition has mounted big offensives in the south and east in recent weeks to push the Taliban back before a separate NATO peace-keeping force takes over from the US-led force in the south.

The government says the Taliban are trying to unnerve NATO as it embarks on what looks set to be its toughest ever ground mission.

The Afghan Defence Ministry said 12 Taliban and two government soldiers were killed in other clashes in the south and east yesterday. Twenty-one insurgents were captured, it said.

More than 1,200 people, most of them militants, have been killed in Afghanistan since January, among them 63 foreign troops, killed in combat or in accidents while on patrol.

The United States has 23,000 troops in Afghanistan, the most since its involvement began in 2001.

The NATO force will soon have about 16,000 soldiers in Afghanistan.

Reuters SB GC1446

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