Afghan Soldier Killed in Clash With Militants

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A clash between militants and Afghan troops left one soldier dead and two others wounded in southeastern Afghanistan, while a gunfight between local police left an officer dead, officials said Sunday.

The Afghan soldier was killed in Barmal district of Paktika province Saturday during the clash with militants, said Sayyed Jamal, the spokesman for the province's governor. No information was available about any militant casualties.

Meanwhile, a clash between police officers in Andarab district of central Baglan province, left one police officer dead and four wounded Saturday, said Kamin, a police official in the province, who goes by only one name. It was not immediately clear what caused the fight.

Afghanistan has seen a surge in violence this year, particularly in the south, where rebel supporters of the toppled Taliban regime have stepped up attacks, as Afghan and NATO-led troops try to drive insurgents out of their safe havens.

Militants attacked a U.S. patrol with rocket-propelled grenades on Friday, killing three Americans in the wild northeastern province of Nuristan before the attack was repelled.

The clash also wounded three U.S. soldiers and one civilian as American forces kept up their hunt for Taliban fighters and extremists close to Usama bin Laden's Al Qaeda network that are holed up in remote mountains hugging the Pakistani border.

In recent weeks, U.S. forces have been pushing to their northernmost points along the mountainous Afghan-Pakistan border, including Nuristan, opening military bases in one of the wildest regions in the country.

Their mission is to crush militants loyal to the Hezb-e-Islami militant group of renegade Afghan warlord Gulbuddin Hekmatyar, the toppled Taliban regime and remnants of bin Laden's Al Qaeda network.

On Saturday, a British soldier in the NATO-led force was killed in a vehicle accident in the southern Helmand province, a British Defense Ministry spokesman said.

The death brought to 19 the number of British forces killed since they deployed to Afghanistan in November 2001. More than 3,000 NATO-led British troops are hunting Taliban fighters throughout Helmand, one of Afghanistan's most violent provinces.

NATO took command of southern Afghanistan from the United States on July 31. The U.S.-led coalition is now focusing on its attention on eastern Afghanistan, where Al Qaeda and Taliban are also active. The coalition first deployed in Afghanistan nearly five years ago.