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NATO soldier killed in southern Afghanistan

A roadside blast killed one NATO soldier and wounded eight others in southern Afghanistan, the alliance said Sunday, but did not disclose the nationality of the slain and wounded soldiers.

A roadside blast killed one NATO soldier and wounded eight others in southern Afghanistan, the alliance said Sunday, withoutdisclosing the nationality of any of thesoldiers.

Three civilians were wounded in the blast, which occurred Sunday in Uruzgan province, NATO said.

Canada has more than 2,000 troops in the country, most around the southern city of Kandahar, as part of the NATO-led International Security Assistance Force that is trying to quell the Taliban insurgency and support development activities.

Forty-two Canadian soldiers have been killed in Afghanistan and more than 200 have been badly wounded since the Afghan mission began.

The latest death came as NATO and Afghan troops killed70 suspected militants who attacked a military base inthe province.

Some 100 to 150 militants attacked thebase north of Tarin Kowt on Saturday, saidU.S. Maj. Luke Knittig, a spokesman for the NATO-led force. The alliance and Afghan troops fought back for several hours with small arms fire, attack helicopters and air strikes.

Seventy insurgents were killed, Knittig said, upgrading an earlier estimate of 55 dead. One Afghan soldier was wounded. There was noindependent verification ofthe death toll at the remote battle site.

Saturday's fighting came a day after an international human rights group criticized NATO-led troops in Afghanistan, saying their tactics increasingly endanger civilians and are turning the population against the Western alliance.

NATO chief apologizes

NATO's top commander apologized Saturday for civilian deaths caused by fighting between Taliban militants and NATO forces earlier in the week, but said insurgents endanger civilians by hiding among them.

His comments came four days after clashes between NATO-led troops and insurgents in the south that Afghan officials say killed 30 to 80 civilians, including women and children. NATO said its initial investigation found 12 civilians killed.

"Sadly, in asymmetric warfare, when you're battling an insurgency, typically the insurgents do not play by the same rules that we would like to play by," U.S. Gen. James Jones said.

The New York-based Human Rights Watch complained Friday that NATO's recent operations have killed dozens of civilians, but it also criticized the Taliban and other insurgents for putting civilians at risk "by using populated areas to launch attacks on NATO and Afghan government forces."

Jones expressed regret for civilian deaths but said Taliban fighters use civilians as human shields and said that in the heat of battle it can be difficult to separate the two.

The death of a civilian "is something that causes anybody in uniform to lose a lot of sleep," Jones said at a news conference at Bagram, the largest U.S. base in Afghanistan.

With files from the Associated Press