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Two Canadians die in Afghan clash

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(CNN) -- Insurgents in southern Afghanistan on Saturday attacked NATO troops, killing two Canadian soldiers and wounding three others, NATO's International Security Assistance Force said.

The militants were wielding small armaments and rocket-propelled grenades when they attacked the troops, NATO said.

The troops "returned fire with small arms and artillery and called in close air support," NATO said.

Separately, an official confirmed earlier reports that gunmen have kidnapped an Italian photojournalist in southern Afghanistan.

The official said Gabriele Torsello and his Afghan interpreter were seized by five gunmen on the highway from the capital of Helmand province to neighboring Kandahar province, The Associated Press reported.

Maj. Luke Knittig, a NATO spokesman in Kabul, said they were informed by another reporter that Torsello had not been in contact for the last three days and they were trying to locate him.

The missing reporter was not registered with the NATO media office and was not on an alliance-sponsored trip, Knittig said, AP reported.

Maso Notarianni, the director of Italian online magazine Peace Reporter, told Italian state TV that Torsello had called a hospital in Lashkar Gah, apparently to let authorities know he was kidnapped.

Torsello's apparent abduction comes a week after two German journalists were shot dead in the relatively safe north of Afghanistan on their way to Bamiyan, site of two famed giant Buddhas blown up by the Taliban in 2001, Reuters news agency reported.

In eastern Afghanistan, a roadside bomb exploded outside a provincial governor's compound -- the third attack in five weeks against a provincial leader. The governor of the eastern Laghman province was not hurt but another official was killed, police said, AP reported.

Saturday's deaths of the two Canadian soldiers came a day after a suicide attack in Kandahar city that killed eight civilians and a NATO soldier.

Farther north, ISAF troops arrested insurgents during an operation in the Afghan capital of Kabul on Friday. One "local national" was killed in the course of that action.

Taliban militants have been making a comeback in the south for months, and have fought Canadian, British, Dutch and American troops in the region.

The 2,000-plus contingent of Canadian soldiers in Afghanistan is based in Kandahar.


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Soldiers of the NATO-led International Security Assistance Force patrol Kabul, Afghanistan.

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