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Soldier killed in Afghan attack

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Afghanistan

(CNN) -- A U.S. soldier was killed and four others wounded in Afghanistan when their vehicle was struck by a bomb, bringing the number of American troops to die in the central Asian country this month to 15, American military said Saturday.

Fighting between U.S. and Afghan forces and Islamic militants in the central Asian nation has been fierce during the runup to the country's Sept. 18 parliamentary and provincial council elections. More than 70 U.S. service members have been killed in combat and non-hostile incidents in Afghanistan this year.

The latest attack occurred near the Khayr Kot district in Paktika province, authorities said. The soldiers were part of a combat patrol aimed at denying insurgents the opportunity to act and influence others in the province, as well as provide a stable environment for upcoming elections, the military said in a written statement.

The soldiers were in an up-armored, high-mobility wheeled vehicle when the bomb detonated, the military said.

The victim's name was withheld pending notification of relatives. The four wounded soldiers were taken to nearby bases for treatment. One was listed in critical condition and another in stable condition, but the remaining two have since returned to duty, the military said.

During a door-to-door search in the Omna district of Paktika province on Monday, Afghan National Police established a cordon and found suspected insurgents, detaining five of them -- two cell leaders and three crew members. The five had assault rifles, Taliban propaganda and bomb-making materials, the U.S. military said in a separate statement Saturday.

The U.S. presence in Afghanistan began a month after the Sept. 11, 2001 attacks, when American forces invaded the country to oust the ruling Taliban, which harbored the al Qaeda network that struck the World Trade Center in New York and the Pentagon outside Washington.

The name of the effort is Operation Enduring Freedom, the start of the United States' war against terror. The total number of U.S. service members to die in that conflict now stands at 232.

Most of the fatalities in Operation Enduring Freedom occurred in Afghanistan, but the Pentagon also includes deaths in their count from other countries where the war on terror has been waged.

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