Six Canadian soldiers killed in Afghanistan

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A roadside bomb tore through a Nato vehicle in Afghanistan, killing six Canadian soldiers and their Afghan interpreter, officials said.

Yesterday's blast in Kandahar province's Zhari district raised the number of foreign soldiers killed in the country this year to at least 102, officials said.

"These brave young men put their lives on the line to defend and protect Afghans and provide them the opportunity to rebuild their lives," said Canada's Prime Minister Stephen Harper. "These soldiers were playing an instrumental role in training and mentoring their Afghan comrades. "

The attack was the deadliest against foreign troops in Afghanistan since 13 May, when seven troops were killed - five Americans, a Canadian and a Briton - in a crash of their Chinook helicopter in Helmand province.

Officials said at the time that it appeared a rocket-propelled grenade might have brought down the aircraft.

Afghan and Nato forces clashed with Taliban militants in Zhari this week, leaving 33 suspected insurgents dead on Tuesday, the provincial governor said.

Seven Afghan police died in a roadside bomb explosion in Zhari on Monday. The region was the site of one of Nato's largest-ever operations last autumn, and remains highly volatile.

Also yesterday, German authorities said a German citizen was believed to have been kidnapped in Afghanistan.

The man was not identified, but a German Foreign Ministry spokesman said he had been missing since June 28.

German Defence Minister Franz-Josef Jung told ZDF television the man was employed by a road-building company.

An Afghan official said a German man was seen last week in the western Farah province's Delaram district and that it's possible the kidnappers were robbers.

District chief Mohammad Shafiq said the kidnappers had contacted village elders in Delaram yesterday and said they planned to discuss the man's release today.

Southern Afghanistan has seen fierce fighting in recent weeks. More than 2,900 people - mostly militants - have been killed in insurgency-related violence in Afghanistan this year, according to an Associated Press tally of numbers provided by Western and Afghan officials.

Of the 102 foreign soldiers killed in Afghanistan this year, 46 were Americans, 18 Britons and 22 Canadians.

Also in the south, militants battled Afghan and US-led coalition troops in separate clashes that left 20 militants and one policeman dead, officials said.

Militants attacked at least three police checkpoints in Ghazni province on Tuesday, and ensuing gun battles left 13 militants and one officer dead, said. General Ali Shah Ahmadzai, the provincial police chief.

In Zabul province, Afghan and US-led coalition forces clashed with suspected Taliban militants on Tuesday in Shahjoy district, leaving seven militants dead and six others wounded, said Ali Kheil, a spokesman for the province's governor.