Coalition soldier, 12 Taliban killed in Afghanistan

KABUL, June 29, 2006 (AFP) – A US-led coalition soldier was killed and three others injured when their vehicle hit a mine in southern Afghanistan while 12 militants died in a raid on a Taliban compound, officials said Thursday.

Separately two coalition soldiers were wounded after a roadside bomb struck their vehicle in the same region, where violence linked to the Islamist militia is at its worst for nearly five years.

The foreign soldier died during a patrol Wednesday in Nawzad district in Helmand province when their vehicle hit a mine which was probably left behind from 25 years of war, a coalition statement said.

"This incident does not appear to be related to extremist activity," the statement said, noting that millions of landmines are lying unmarked across the country.

It did not give the nationality of the dead and injured but most foreign troops in Helmand are from the United States or Britain. Britain has some 3,300 soldiers in Helmand.

The death took to 11 the number of coalition soldiers to die since June 20 across Afghanistan, 10 of them in combat.

Meanwhile the coalition said Afghan and foreign troops killed 12 rebel fighters during a raid on a Taliban compound in the village of Lwar Gawrgin in the Shahidi Hassas district of Uruzgan province on Wednesday.

Two Afghan soldiers were also slightly wounded, it said.

"The targeted compound was frequently used by Taliban insurgents as a meeting place to plan and facilitate attacks against innocent Afghan civilians, Afghan National Army and coalition forces," a statement said.

Also on Wednesday afternoon two coalition soldiers were wounded by a bomb in Mizan district of troubled southern Zabul province, Lieutenant Tamara Lawrence said.

"The two soldiers where taken to a nearby medical facility for medical treatment", she said, without giving information on their condition.

Taliban fighters have been waging an insurgency since their government was toppled in a US-led operation in December 2001 for sheltering Osama bin Laden after the September 11 attacks on the United States.

Uruzgan and Helmand are part of the focus of Operation Mountain Thrust launched in mid-May, the biggest anti-Taliban operation yet.

It involves around 10,000 soldiers and support staff including from the Afghan, British, Canadian and US forces. Since then several hundred insurgents have been killed, according to the coalition.