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One NATO soldier, several Afghan militants killed: US

One NATO soldier and several insurgents have been killed in a firefight in eastern Afghanistan, the US military said Saturday, as Taliban-linked violence spirals weeks before elections.

world Updated: Jul 25, 2009 11:56 IST

One NATO soldier and several insurgents have been killed in a firefight in eastern Afghanistan, the US military said Saturday, as Taliban-linked violence spirals weeks before elections.

Troops with the coalition International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) came under fire from small arms and rocket-propelled grenades as they tried to search a house on Friday in the east of the country, the military said.

"It was during this exchange that one ISAF soldier was killed," the statement released early Saturday said, without revealing the nationality of the dead soldier or the exact location of the clash.

"The ISAF soldiers returned fire and called in close air support to neutralise the enemy threat, dropping three bombs and killing several insurgents," it added.

The statement did not say how many militants were killed, in line with a new US policy to improve relations with the local population by withholding the number of insurgent deaths.

Western military casualties have hit record levels in Afghanistan as foreign governments scramble extra troops to the war-torn nation, hoping to counter an escalating Taliban insurgency ahead of elections on August 20.

There are about 90,000 foreign troops -- mainly US, British and Canadian -- deployed in Afghanistan on a mission to stabilise the country with the Taliban insurgency at its deadliest since the 2001 US-led invasion.

The independent www.icasualties.org website, which tracks military losses, says 221 foreign soldiers have been killed in Afghanistan this year, not including the latest death.

The website reports 65 killed in July alone -- the deadliest month for international forces since the 2001 invasion.