Bomb blast kills NATO soldier in Afghanistan


* Helicopter carrying Turkish troops crashes in Wardak province

KABUL: The number of foreign troops killed in Afghanistan this year has risen to 131 with the death of a soldier in a Taliban planned bomb attack in the country’s south, NATO said on Tuesday.

NATO’s International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) said the soldier was killed by an improvised explosive device (IED) on Monday. The soldier’s nationality was not revealed, in line with ISAF policy, nor was the exact location of the incident.

An AFP tally based on a count kept by an independent website icasualties.org puts the total number of foreign soldiers killed in hostilities in Afghanistan this year at 131 – compared with 78 in the first quarter of 2009..

IEDs are crude bombs made by Taliban using cheap and easily obtainable ingredients, including fertiliser and simple switches.

They put a devastating toll on the troops, Afghan and Western, fighting to quell the insurgency, now in its ninth year since the Taliban regime was overthrown in the US-led invasion of 2001. US military intelligence officials have said that up to 90 percent of foreign troop deaths are caused by IEDs.

The number of foreign soldiers under US and NATO command is set to peak at 150,000 by August, as the campaign to end the war escalates towards a mid-2011 deadline set by US President Barack Obama to begin drawing down.

Separately, a helicopter carrying Turkish troops crash-landed southwest of the Afghan capital Kabul on Tuesday, injuring two soldiers, a Turkish military spokesman said.

Major Ismail Meric, a spokesman for the Turkish contingent in the NATO-led International Security Assistance Force (ISAF), said nobody was killed in the incident and the helicopter was operated by a contractor. The international force described the aircraft as an ISAF helicopter. “An ISAF helicopter crashed today in Wardak province. According to initial reports, there were no fatalities and all ISAF service members on board were medically evacuated to nearby ISAF medical treatment facilities,” the ISAF said in a statement.

“There are no indications that enemy activity caused the incident. The incident is under investigation.” Earlier, the spokesman for Maidan Wardak province Governor Shahidullah Shahid said one Turkish soldier was killed and three injured when the helicopter crashed into a mountain.

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