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Gun fight claims British soldier.

A BRITISH soldier died in Afghanistan yesterday in one of a series of battles that also left 71 militants dead.

The Ministry of Defence said the soldier, who has not been named, died from injuries in fighting.

Three other British soldiers received minor injuries in the gun battle north of the southern Helmand region.

Further south yesterday, Afghan and NATO forces battled Taliban rebels with rockets, artillery and airstrikes, killing 71 guerillas.

Forces were combing orchards yesterday for more dead rebels.

Five Afghan troops were also killed in battles in the bloodiest period of fighting since the Taliban were overthrown five years ago.

Extremists have stepped up attacks in a bid to undermine the American-backed government of president Hamid Karzai.

An MoD spokesman said: "It is with deep regret that the Ministry of Defence can confirm the death of a British soldier during a contact in Helmand province at around noon today local time."

The death brings the number of British forces personnel who have died in Afghanistan since November 2001 to 20.

Five Afghan troops died in battles, which started late Saturday and spilled into Sunday morning after the Taliban attacked a police convoy in Panjwayi district of the southern Kandahar province.

Militants ambushed another police patrol in the western Farah province. One officer and two attackers died in the gun battle.

Farah has been relatively untouched by the spiralling violence in bordering southern provinces.

But officials have said intense US and NATO-led military operations in the south during recent months have pushed some militants north into the province, where they have launched ambushes and bombings in an escalation of fighting.

CAPTION(S):

PRESSURE: Karzai
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Publication:Daily Record (Glasgow, Scotland)
Date:Aug 21, 2006
Words:276
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