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Last Updated: Friday, 5 May 2006, 16:23 GMT 17:23 UK
Afghan bomb kills Italian troops
The handover of Nato command in Afghanistan on Thursday
The Italians handed over command of Nato's Afghan mission this week
Two Italian soldiers in the Nato peacekeeping mission in Afghanistan have been killed after their vehicle was hit by a bomb.

Four Italians were also hurt in the blast as they were travelling south of the capital, Kabul.

Four Afghans, including two policemen, have also been killed in the southern Helmand province where British troops have just taken over Nato operations.

There has been growing violence recently blamed on the Taleban.

Most of it has been in southern and eastern areas.

'Biggest issue'

The Italian soldiers died after their two-vehicle convoy was hit some 20km (12 miles) south of Kabul.

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Last week three Italian troops were killed in Iraq.

"The issue of the price paid by our soldiers for peace and stability is one of the biggest issues, perhaps the biggest one in our country right now," Romano Prodi, Italy's prime minister-elect said in Rome.

On Thursday Italy handed over command of the International Security Assistance Force (Isaf) to the UK.

Italy has nearly 2,000 troops in the Isaf force in Afghanistan.

Second incident

The BBC's Bilal Sarwary in Kabul says that the capital and the areas around it are relatively safe.

Italian peacekeepers in Afghanistan
A number of Italian soldiers were also wounded

But this is the second time this week that Isaf troops have been targeted, arousing fears within the government and among ordinary Kabulis.

In the other incident, a civilian and a presumed suicide attacker were killed when Canadian forces travelling on the main highway linking Kabul to the US military base at Bagram were targeted.

Violence has continued in the south with four more deaths reported in Helmand province.

The government says two police were killed in a gunfight with the Taleban in the district of Nauzad. It is not known if the Taleban sustained casualties.

In another incident two relatives of a member of the upper house of the Afghan parliament were killed in their car.

"They were going from their home to the market and on the way a remote-control bomb blew up," Sher Mohammad Akhundzada, Reuters news agency reports.

Afghan warlord Gulbuddin Hekmatyar said in a video broadcast by al-Jazeera TV on Thursday that he was ready to fight alongside al-Qaeda against American forces in Afghanistan.




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