updated 9/22/2004 5:30:51 AM ET 2004-09-22T09:30:51

An American soldier was killed in an attack on a patrol in eastern Afghanistan, the U.S. military said Wednesday, the third American servicemember to die in the country this week.

American spokesman Maj. Scott Nelson said the soldier was killed on Monday in Khost province, close to the Pakistani border, but said he had no further details.

The military already announced the death of two U.S. soldiers on Monday in neighboring Paktika province, and said Wednesday that they were killed by mortar fire.

The soldiers were conducting a search operation when "a large force of anti-coalition militants was able to launch an attack" with mortars, Nelson said. Six Afghan soldiers were also wounded.

The U.S.-led force called in A-10 ground attack aircraft and a B-1 bomber, which dropped two 500-pound bombs on the attackers.

"At least nine of them were killed, probably more," Nelson said.

All in all, U.S.-led troops clashed with militants in eight separate locations on Monday, he said. A total of 14 American troops were injured and one Afghan soldier was listed as missing, he said.

The military already reported that two of the Americans were wounded by a roadside bomb. They were being taken to Germany for treatment for "non-life-threatening" injuries, Nelson said.

He didn't give details of the other injuries.

The wave of attacks suggest that militants are stepping up their operations in the run-up to Oct. 9 presidential elections, the first national vote since the fall of the Taliban.

According to the U.S. Defense Department, about 140 U.S. military personnel have died during Operation Enduring Freedom, launched after the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks in the United States.

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