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Six NATO Soldiers Killed in S Afghanistan
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Six soldiers of the NATO-led International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) were killed by a roadside bomb in southern Afghanistan on Sunday, an ISAF statement said.

A vehicle carrying the six soldiers hit an explosive device, and was totally damaged, the statement said.

Another ISAF solider was injured in the explosion and is receiving medical attention at an ISAF medical facility, it added.

No local civilians were injured in this incident, according to the statement.

The statement did not give a more detailed location of the incident.

In accordance with NATO policy, ISAF also does not release the casualties' nationality prior to the relevant national authority doing so.

No one has claimed responsibility, but Taliban militants have carried out similar attacks frequently.

About 4,500 ISAF and 1,000 Afghan soldiers are carrying out a major offensive dubbed Operation Achilles in northern Helmand in southern Afghanistan, a stronghold of Taliban militants.

Some 36,000 ISAF soldiers are being deployed in this country to fight Taliban and other anti-government insurgents.

Due to rising Taliban-linked insurgency, over 700 persons, mostly Taliban militants, have been killed in Afghanistan this year.

Also on Sunday, a spokesman for Taliban commander Mullah Dadullah said Taliban fighters killed the kidnapped Afghan journalist Ajmal Naqshbandi as the Afghan government did not meet the group's demand of the release of two Taliban prisoners.

Naqshbandi's body was found in the volatile southern Helmand province, while it was not clear where he was killed.

Naqshbandi was abducted in Helmand together with an Italian journalist Daniele Mastrogiacomo and their driver on March 4.

Afghan and foreign journalists in this country have been urging Afghan authorities to do anything possible to get Naqshbandi freed, but apparently no effective measures have been carried out by the government.

The driver was beheaded, while Mastrogiacomo was released after five Taliban prisoners, including some important figures, were freed by Afghan authorities.

The Italian hostage deal has been severely criticized by some Western countries, notably the United States and Britain, and even by Afghan Foreign Minister Rangin Dadfar Spanta, who said it would provoke a kidnapping spree by the Taliban.

On March 27, the Taliban abducted a five-member Afghan medical team in the southern Kandahar province, and has insisted they would be released only after a number of Taliban prisoners are freed.

(Xinhua News Agency April 9, 2007)

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