KANDAHAR, Afghanistan — NATO said its troops killed more than 20 insurgents Saturday in fighting that broke out after a patrol came under fire in eastern Afghanistan.
In the southern city of Kandahar, a suicide bomber targeting a district chief killed two passers-by including a child, and wounded at least nine people, authorities said.
The gunbattle between NATO forces and insurgents took place in the Tagab district of Kapisa province, where coalition forces called in air support after their patrol came under fire, NATO said. It said Taliban commanders were among the more than 20 insurgents killed.
A day earlier, more than five insurgents were killed in a three-hour firefight in the same district following sniper fire on Afghan and international forces manning a checkpoint, NATO said. The coalition did not say what nationality the international troops were, but French forces are stationed in the area.
About 3,850 French troops are deployed in Afghanistan, mainly in Kapisa and the Surobi district north and east of Kabul. A French soldier was killed Friday after a reconnaissance mission came under fire, bringing the total number of French soldiers killed in Afghanistan since 2001 to 51.
Violence has been on the rise across much of Afghanistan, with the southern provinces of Kandahar — the birthplace of the Taliban — and Helmand seeing much of the fighting. NATO forces have poured troops into both provinces.
Separately, French authorities in Paris said a French noncommissioned officer had been killed and another soldier wounded in Tagab on Saturday. NATO said a second coalition service member died in a roadside bombing in the south. It did not release the person's nationality.
Another soldier died of a noncombat injury in the north of the country on Friday, NATO said. The German military said one of its soldiers, a 21-year-old, died of a gunshot wound that appeared to be the result of an accident at a military post in Baghlan province, but the matter was being investigated.
More than 670 international troops have died in Afghanistan so far this year.
MERKEL VISITS: German Chancellor Angela Merkel, her defense minister and the military chief of staff paid a surprise visit to German troops in northern Afghanistan on Saturday. Germany currently has nearly 4,700 troops serving in Afghanistan and plans to start gradually withdrawing in late 2011. The German delegation visited Kunduz and Mazar-i-Sharif, where Germany has bases. Merkel met Afghan President Hamid Karzai and Gen. David Petraeus, the commander of U.S. and NATO forces in Afghanistan, at Mazar-i-Sharif.