, KABUL, August 1 – Four US and French soldiers were killed in insurgent attacks in Afghanistan on Saturday, the military said, in a bloody start to the month after July saw the highest death toll since 2001.
More than 100,000 international troops are deployed in Afghanistan to help the young army fight a brutal extremist insurgency led by the Taliban that is mounting just three weeks ahead of August 20 presidential elections.
Around 230 French, US and Afghan troops came under fire in the Kapisa province, northeast of Kabul, while on an operation with Afghan troops, the French military in Afghanistan said in a statement.
"One French soldier was hit and died of the injury. Immediately the troops returned fire and counter-attacked the insurgents," it said.
"The fighting lasted one and a half hours and two other French soldiers were wounded. The insurgents eventually retreated."
France has lost 29 soldiers in Afghanistan since 2001, it said. It has around 2,900 French troops in NATO’s International Security Assistance Force in Afghanistan under a UN mandate.
Three other ISAF soldiers were killed in bomb blasts, the alliance force said separately.
"Three International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) service members were killed today after their patrol was struck by two improvised explosive devices in southern Afghanistan," it said.
US military spokesman in Kabul, Chief Petty Officer Brian Naranjo, said the three were from the US military and had died in the province of Kandahar, the birthplace of the Taliban movement. He could give no details.
The United States has 62,000 troops in Afghanistan, the leading contributor to a mainly Western effort against Islamic extremists said to be plotting attacks in the West.
Explosions caused by homemade bombs, called improvised explosive devices by the military, cause around 70 percent of the casualties to the foreign soldiers.
Seventy-five international troops were killed last month, most of them in attacks, according to the independent www.icasualties.org website.
More than 230 have lost their lives in Afghanistan this year, it says.
Thousands of mostly US soldiers were deployed in Afghanistan earlier this year to help secure Taliban strongholds in the south so that Afghans can vote in the election, the second-ever presidential vote in a turbulent history.
There are fears the violence will disrupt the vote, for which the Taliban have demanded a boycott.