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Three NATO-Led Soldiers Killed In Afghanistan

KABUL -- Three soldiers from the NATO-led force were killed by a roadside bomb in eastern Afghanistan, the alliance said.

Despite a slight drop in militant activity during Ramadan last month, violence in Afghanistan is running at its highest rate since the U.S.-led invasion to wrest control from the militant Islamist Taliban movement in 2001.

The United Nations says more than 3,800 people, one-third of them civilians, were killed in the first seven months of this year.

Western forces are suffering the highest casualties since their mission began, with the re-emboldened Taliban exacting a heavy toll and extending the territory it controls daily.

More than 240 foreign soldiers have died this year, and casualties are running at around the same rate as in Iraq, which has twice the number of forces fighting there.

The International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) did not give the nationality of the dead soldiers, though most of the forces operating in that area are American.

In other incidents of violence, unidentified gunmen shot dead a government official in Kandahar in southern Afghanistan and a roadside bomb killed nine civilians in a mini-bus in neighboring Uruzgan Province, local officials said.

Dost Mohammad Arghestani, head of the Social Affairs Department in Kandahar Province, was killed on his way to work by two gunmen on a motorbike.

Five Militants Killed

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

U.S.-led soldiers killed five militants in an operation targeting a network for foreign fighters in Ghazni Province, southwest of Kabul, on October 13, the U.S. military said.

A Nepali cook for ISAF was kidnapped along with six Afghan colleagues in western Herat.

Four were later released, but local Taliban commander Ghulam Yahya Siwoshani told Reuters the militant group were holding the rest and they were in good health. Siwoshani did not say why they were keeping the men and did not make any demands.

Kidnapping has become a lucrative business in Afghanistan, where dozens of locals and foreigners have been abducted by criminals or Taliban-linked militants.

Taliban insurgents have been behind a number of kidnappings Some victims have been killed but most were released unharmed.