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Afghan defence chief says U.S. success in Iraq pushing militants into his nation

The recent successes of the U.S.-led coalition in Iraq have pushed sophisticated, highly trained insurgents into Afghanistan, the Afghan defence minister said Tuesday.

3 NATO troops, 1 coalition soldier killed in separate attacks

The recent successes of the U.S.-led coalition in Iraq have pushed sophisticated, highly trained insurgents into Afghanistan, the Afghan defence minister said Tuesday.

"The success of coalition forces in Iraq and also some other issues in some of the neighbouring countries have made it possible that there is a major increase in the foreign fighters," Gen. Abdul Rahim Wardak told a news conference in Kabul.

"There is no doubt that they are [better] equipped than before. They are well trained, more sophisticated, their co-ordination is much better."

Violence has risen steadily in Afghanistan since late 2005.

More than 3,800 people — about a third of them civilians — had been killed in insurgency-related violence by the end of July this year, according to United Nations figures.

The top U.S. soldier in Afghanistan, Maj.-Gen. Jeffrey Schloesser, told the Associated Press in September that he has seen a spike in the number of foreign militants in Afghanistan, including those of Arabian and Chechen origins.

Schloesser said he believes militant-run websites are calling for fighters to move to Afghanistan from Iraq.

"I can't prove they are coming from Iraq to Afghanistan, but I've seen it on websites that that's what they're being told to do," Schloesser said.

NATO has blamed foreign fighters and growing instability in neighbouring Pakistan for a 40 per cent increase in Taliban attacks this year.

3 NATO soldiers killed in bombing

Wardak's declaration comes as NATO reported Tuesday that a roadside bombing in eastern Afghanistan claimed the lives of three of its soldiers as they travelled in their vehicle.  

In a statement, NATO said the attack occurred Tuesday, but did not provide the soldiers' nationalities or the exact location of the blast.

The majority of the NATO troops in the east are American.

Elsewhere, U.S.-led coalition troops killed five insurgents in central Ghazni province Monday during a raid to disrupt a foreign fighter network, the coalition said Tuesday.

The coalition also said one of its service members was killed and several others were wounded in southern Afghanistan Monday when a roadside bomb hit their vehicle. No other information, including the service members' nationalities or precise location of the attack, was released.

Afghan government official gunned down

In a separate incident, a government official in the southern Kandahar province was shot dead by unidentified gunmen.

Dost Mohammad Arghestani, head of the social affairs department in Kandahar, was killed on his way to work Tuesday morning by two gunmen on a motorbike, Kandahar police chief Matiullah Qateh told Reuters.

Kandahar is one of the main strongholds for Taliban Islamist insurgents, but drug smugglers, criminals and some tribal rivalries have also contributed to violence.

Most of Canada's 2,500-strong military force is based in the volatile province.

With files from the Associated Press, Reuters