KABUL, Afghanistan (AP) – Two NATO soldiers were killed Saturday in southern Afghanistan after militants ambushed them with rocket-propelled grenades and gunfire, the alliance said.

A roadside bomb, meanwhile, exploded outside a provincial governor’s compound – the third attack in five weeks against a provincial leader. The governor of the eastern Afghan province was not hurt but another official was killed, police said.

Canada’s defense department identified the dead NATO solders as Canadian but did not release their names. NATO said three soldiers were wounded in the battle in Kandahar province, while Canada said two were wounded. The cause of the discrepancy was not immediately clear.

The soldiers were working on a road that would offer safer passage from the volatile Panjwaii district to Kandahar, Canada’s defense department said in a statement.

Other Canadian units responded to the attack and became involved in a three-hour battle with insurgents, and NATO helicopters also were called in, the statement said.

Counting the latest fatalities, 42 Canadian soldiers and one diplomat have been killed in Afghanistan since 2002.

The governor of the eastern Laghman province escaped injury after someone placed a bomb hidden in a plastic bag in an irrigation ditch opposite his compound, said Khalil Rahmani, deputy provincial police chief. It was detonated by remote control as the governor was arriving by car. About a dozen suspects were later arrested, Rahmani said.

Gov. Gulab Mangal said it was the second assassination attempt against him in the last couple months.

“It is clear that whoever tries to do good work for the people of Afghanistan, they will try to kill him,” Mangal said. “A clear example of this is Abdul Hakim Taniwal.”

Taniwal, the former governor of Paktia province, was killed in early September by a suicide bomber. The governor of Helmand also was apparently targeted late last month when a suicide bomber attacked his compound, missing him but killing 18 people.

“It is difficult to prevent such attacks, especially against the governors, because governors cannot sit still in their offices,” Mangal said. “All the time they need to go out and meet with the people, hear about their problems and find solutions for them.”

Militants have been stepping up attacks in Afghanistan the last several months, particularly in the southern and eastern regions near the border with Pakistan.

In Kandahar province, a suicide car bomb exploded near an Afghan army convoy, injuring three soldiers, said Dawood Ahmadi, the governor’s spokesman.

Six Afghan policemen died after a roadside bomb hit their convoy Friday in eastern Afghanistan, said Gen. Anan Roufi, the police chief of Paktia province. The explosion happened in Jaji district, near the border with Pakistan.

Late Friday, Taliban militants attacked a police patrol in Zabul province, sparking a firefight that left two police and three militants dead, said Noor Mohammad Paktin, the provincial police chief.

Also Friday, a suicide bomber rammed an explosives-packed van into a NATO military patrol on a busy commercial street in Kandahar city, firing shrapnel at nearby storeowners and shoppers. One NATO soldier and eight Afghan civilians were killed.

NATO says its clashes with insurgents have decreased in recent weeks. But militants are increasingly resorting to roadside and suicide attacks in their bid to weaken the government and hit Afghan and foreign troops.


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