British soldier, several militants killed in Afghanistan

KABUL (AFP) — A British NATO soldier was killed in a roadside blast in southern Afghanistan overnight while US-led coalition forces killed several militants, officials said Friday.

The unrest was the latest amid a swelling insurgency by the extremist Taliban movement that has killed around 5,000 people this year, mostly in southern and eastern Afghanistan.

The British soldier from the 1st Battalion The Royal Gurkha Rifles died and two others were wounded in a blast on Thursday in southern Helmand province, the country’s most volatile region and its opium-growing heartland.

They were taking part in Operation Palk Wahel, which aims to drive out the Taliban, Afghanistan’s former hardline rulers, from the province’s insurgency-hit Upper Gereshk Valley.

A defence ministry spokesman in London said the incident happened just after 8:15 am local time (0345 GMT) Thursday as the soldiers were returning to their base at Kandahar airfield, the main allied air base in southern Afghanistan.

“The vehicle they were travelling in was hit by an explosion approximately 30 kilometres (19 miles) west of Kandahar,” he told AFP.

The NATO-led International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) in Kabul confirmed in a statement that one of its soldiers was killed and two wounded in southern Afghanistan on Thursday.

The latest death took the number of international soldiers killed in Afghanistan this year to 180, most of them in combat.

A total of 82 British soldiers have now died in Afghanistan since the start of operations in 2001 to oust the Taliban.

An ISAF civilian employee was killed in a roadside bomb blast in eastern Afghanistan on Thursday, the force said, without saying if the worker was Afghan or a foreigner.

Separately, coalition forces killed several militants in an attack on a suspected Taliban hideout in eastern Paktika province early Friday, the US military said in a statement.

“Several anti-coalition militants were killed by Afghan and coalition forces early this morning in Paktika province during an operation to disrupt extremist activities in the area,” the statement said.

It did not give an exact number of casualties.

The Taliban launched an insurgency soon after they were driven from power by US-led forces following the 9/11 attacks on the United States.

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