Soldier from international peacekeeping force killed in Afghanistan

A soldier from the international peacekeeping force that patrols Kabul was killed Friday and three others wounded when their vehicles stuck a land mine on a road east of the capital, a force spokesman said. The blast occurred in the Bagrami district, just east of Kabul, as the peacekeepers patrolled in two vehicles, said Maj. Andrew Elmes, a spokesman for the International Security and Assistance Force, or ISAF. One of the wounded was in serious condition, Elmes said.

Elmes said he did not have any information on the nationalities of the dead or wounded soldiers. However, the Portuguese state news agency Lusa, citing a Defense Ministry official, reported that a Portuguese soldier was killed.

Portuguese Defense Ministry officials contacted by telephone declined to provide immediate comment, saying a news conference would be held later in the day.

Portugal has 196 military personnel with the peacekeeping NATO force in Afghanistan. The contingent includes 148 commandos and 37 Air Force personnel who run the airport. Portugal took part in the ISAForce between February and July 2002 and returned to Afghanistan in May 2004.

NATO currently has about 10,000 multinational peacekeepers in Afghanistan. It plans to deploy 6,000 more soldiers in the south, where Taliban and al-Qaida rebels are active.

The attack comes at the end of a bloody week in Afghanistan.

Eight people were killed Monday when suicide bombers rammed two cars filled with explosives into vehicles carrying peacekeepers, the first major assault on foreign troops in Kabul in more than a year. Troops thwarted a suspected third bombing by shooting dead three people in a car racing toward the scene of the blasts.

A German peacekeeping soldier was among those killed, and five peacekeepers were wounded. The rest of the dead were Afghans. Authorities blamed al-Qaida for the attacks, and the defense minister later warned that his government believes the terror network has more suicide attackers ready to strike, reports the AP.

It was not clear if the land mine that killed the ISAF soldier on Friday was freshly placed, or if it was one of the many left over from decades of warfare in Afghanistan.

ISAF has about 12,000 soldiers from 36 nations in Afghanistan and is responsible for security in Kabul as well as northern and western regions of the country. A separate 20,000-strong U.S.-led coalition is in volatile eastern and southern parts of the country, reports the AP. I.L.

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