Canadian soldier injured by landmine in Afghanistan

A Canadian soldier was seriously injured in southern Afghanistan early Thursday when he stepped on a landmine during a routine patrol.

A Canadian soldier stepped on a landmine during a routine patrol in southern Afghanistan early Thursdayand suffered serious but not life-threatening injuries.

Master Cpl. Jody Mitic, a member of the 1st Battalion Royal Canadian Regiment battle group based in Petawawa, Ont., was taken to hospital at Kandahar Airfield,said Lieut. Sue Stefko, spokeswoman for the Canadian military.

Mitic, who isin stable condition, will likely be sent to the Landstuhl Regional Medical Centre in Germany, she said. His family has been notified.

Stefko saidMitic was injured atroughly 4:30 a.m. local time about three kilometres west of the Panjwaii district in the volatile province of Kandahar, wheremost of Canada's more than 2,000troops in Afghanistan are stationed.

The incident came duringa pre-dawn patrol as part of a British-led NATO operation that has been sweeping throughthe Panjwaii districtsince mid-December in search of Taliban militants and bomb-making facilities.

Forty-four Canadian soldiers have been killed since Canada sent troops to the troubled country in early 2002.

In a separate operation, NATO said Thursday that as many as 150 insurgents were killed infighting in eastern Afghanistan after two large groups of fighters crossed the border from Pakistan.

The fighters, who hadenteredthe Afghan province ofPaktika, weremet with ground fire and air strikes, NATO said.

Afghan Gen. Murad Ali said the insurgentsbrought several trucks of ammunition.

A NATO statement said that "initial battle damage estimates" indicated that as many as 150 fighters were killed.

Ali said more than 50 fighters were killed. Mohammad Zahir Azimi, the spokesman for the AfghanMinistry of Defence,said he thoughtthe toll was 80.

It was not clear why there was such a disparity in the estimates. Independent confirmation of the death toll was not immediately possible.

The porous, mountainous border between Afghanistan and Pakistan is a major problemfor NATObecauseTaliban militants based in Pakistan cross over the border to launch attacks on foreign troops.

With files from the Canadian Press