updated 11/18/2005 11:57:48 AM ET 2005-11-18T16:57:48

A Portuguese soldier was killed Friday and three others were wounded when an explosion struck their vehicles outside Kabul, officials said.

The blast occurred in the Bagrami district, just east of the capital, as the peacekeepers patrolled in two vehicles, said Maj. Andrew Elmes, a spokesman for the NATO-led International Security and Assistance Force, or ISAF. Elmes said the blast appeared to come from a land mine.

In Lisbon, Defense Minister Luis Amado said the dead and wounded soldiers were all Portuguese. Officials identified the dead soldier as Sgt. Joao Pereira and said one of the others was seriously wounded, while the other two had minor injuries.

Portuguese Armed Forces Chief Jose Mendes Cabecadas declined to say whether the blast was from a land mine or a remotely detonated bomb. The explosion hit the first of a two-vehicle patrol, he said. An investigation is under way.

An intentional attack?
Tens of thousands of land mines and unexploded ordnance are left over from decades of warfare in Afghanistan, but a resident said it was unlikely the explosive had been on the road for long, indicating it was an intentional attack.

“This area was not mined during the holy war (against Soviet troops in the 1980s),” said Zalmai, a resident who like many Afghans goes by only one name. He said he heard a loud explosion, followed by gunfire from the soldiers.

The blast came four days after eight people were killed when suicide bombers rammed cars filled with explosives into vehicles carrying peacekeepers in Kabul — the first major assault on foreign troops in the capital in more than a year.

A German peacekeeping soldier was among those killed, and five peacekeepers were wounded. The rest of the dead were Afghans. Authorities blamed al-Qaida for the attacks, and the defense minister later warned that the terror network likely has more suicide attackers ready to strike.

Portugal has 196 military personnel with the 12,000-strong NATO peacekeeping force in Afghanistan. The contingent includes 148 commandos and 37 air force personnel who run the airport. Portugal took part in the ISAF force between February and July 2002 and returned to Afghanistan in May 2004.

Friday’s death was the 25th among ISAF soldiers this year — 17 of them Spanish military personnel killed in a helicopter crash. In addition, 86 American troops have died in Afghanistan so far this year.

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