Four US-led soldiers killed in southern Afghanistan

Four US-led soldiers and their Afghan colleague were killed in a roadside bomb blast in southern Afghanistan, while 16 militants and two children were killed in separate incidents in the same region, the military said on Tuesday, dpa reported.

The soldiers and the Afghan civilian who was working with the military were killed when their vehicle was blown up by a roadside bomb Tuesday afternoon, the US military said in a statement.

The statement did not disclose the nationalities of the soldiers, nor say exactly where the incident took place. Most of the soldiers serving under the coalition banner are from the United States.

Tuesday's deaths brought the total number of international soldiers killed so far this year to more than 40, with most of them US forces. Nearly 300 foreign troops lost their lives in the conflict in Afghanistan in 2008.

The Taliban-led insurgency is on the rise despite the presence of around 70,000 international troops in the war-ravaged country.

US President Barack Obama recently announced the deployment of an additional 17,000 soldiers to Afghanistan this year.

With the extra troops, the US will have more than 50,000 soldiers in Afghanistan by this summer, the largest troop presence since the ouster of Taliban regime some seven year ago.

Meanwhile, two children were killed and two others were wounded when the unexploded ordnance they were playing with detonated on Monday in southern Kandahar province, NATO said in a statement.

"It is alleged that the unexploded ordnance was left behind by ISAF (International Security Assistance Force) soldiers who were conducting a practice range exercise in the area the day prior," the statement said, adding an investigation was under way.

Separately, Afghan soldiers backed by coalition forces killed 16 Taliban militants in clash in which heavy artillery was also used in southern Helmand province on Monday, the US military said in separate statement.

The clash triggered after a joint reconnaissance patrol of Afghan and coalition forces came under heavy and accurate small-arms fire from numerous militant fighting positions, it said.

The combined forces used "several precision strikes" after they realized that the militants would not be subdued, it said, adding that the joint forces discovered roadside bomb-making material following the search of the destroyed compound.

The US military said no soldiers or civilians were killed. But a statement from the Helmand provincial governor said that several civilians were killed in the clash which took place in Sangin district of the province.

The statement said it could not provide any exact number of civilians killed, but accused the insurgents of jeopardizing the lives of the ordinary people by operating from their homes.

Southern provinces are the main hub for Taliban activity in Afghanistan. Thousands of British, Canadian, and Dutch soldiers are battling the resurgent Taliban in the region, while thousands more US soldiers prepare for the battlefield.

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