Six foreign soldiers, scores of rebels slain in Afghanistan

Six foreign troops including a Polish national were slain in bombings in Afghanistan on Saturday, the forces said, making it the deadliest day for international soldiers in the war-torn nation this year.

Meanwhile, the Afghan army said five Afghan troopers and dozens of militants were killed in operations across the country in the last 24 hours.

Four of the foreign troops serving in the US-led coalition were killed when insurgents attacked them with an improvised bomb and small arms fire just outside the strategic southern city of Kandahar on Saturday, the force said.

"Four coalition service members were killed and two more were seriously wounded today in an IED (improvised explosive device) strike while conducting operations in Kandahar province," a statement from the force said.

A coalition spokesman later told AFP that the "complex attack" included a roadside bomb explosion followed by small arms fire west of the volatile city. The soldiers' nationalities were not revealed.

Another soldier serving under the same deployment died in a similar bomb explosion overnight in the southwestern province of Farah, the force said.

In another bomb attack like the ones that killed the troops serving in the US-led coalition, a Polish soldier in the separate NATO-led International Security Assistance Force was killed in the eastern province of Paktika, ISAF and the Polish defence ministry said.

Four other soldiers were injured, they said.

Ninety-nine foreign soldiers have been killed in Afghanistan this year, 32 since the beginning of June, the deadliest month for the deployment this year, according to an AFP tally.

ISAF also said one of its bases was attacked from across the border with Pakistan, but no casualties were reported.

Elsewhere, two Afghan soldiers were killed and three wounded in an improvised bomb explosion in the southern province of Zabul, according to a police commander.

Three other Afghan troops died in fighting that left a dozen rebels dead in the eastern province of Kunar, provincial governor Fazlullah Wahedi told AFP.

The insurgents later launched a rocket on a civilian hospital, killing a construction worker, a local health official said.

The US-led force said "several militants" were killed in operations across Afghanistan.

"Within the last 24 hours the coalition force reported they have killed approximately 35 insurgents in (separate) operations," US Lieutenant Nathan Perry, a military spokesman, told AFP.

Barack Obama, the presumptive Democratic nominee for US president, said earlier this week that the real front of the "war on terror" was now Afghanistan.

Nineteen coalition soldiers were killed in hostile fire in Afghanistan last month, while 17 died in action in Iraq over the same period, according to US Defence Department statistics.

General Sher Mohammad Karimi, chief of operations for the US-trained Afghan army, said the jump in foreign military casualties was due to the recent widespread use of roadside and suicide bombings.

But General Mohammad Zahir Azimi, chief spokesman for the Afghan army, blamed a controversial peace deal between Pakistan's government and Islamic militants.

"Peace talks between Pakistan and the terrorists are resulting in more attacks in Afghanistan. The high casualties are because of that," Azimi said at a news conference with Karimi.

Since their removal from power in late 2001 in a US-led invasion, the Taliban have regrouped and are trying to depose the US-backed government in Kabul by waging a bloody insurgency that has gained pace in the past two years.

Hundreds of insurgents escaped from a prison in Kandahar last Friday, prompting 1,000 Afghan and foreign forces to launch an operation to hunt the rebels who had massed outside the city following the jailbreak.

Nearly 100 rebels were killed during an operation in Arghandab district, this week, Karimi said, raising the death toll from 56.

"There still might be some Taliban in the area hiding. A search operation is underway," Karimi said, adding the district was likely to be declared "free-of-enemy" by Monday.

ISAF and the US-led force have about 70,000 troops in Afghanistan.

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