KABUL, Afghanistan -- A US soldier was killed after stepping on a land mine while patrolling in southern Afghanistan, the military said yesterday. The killing brought to 200 the number of American troops slain here since the Taliban was ousted in 2001.
The soldier was part of an offensive patrol in a part of Helmand Province that has been racked by rebel violence recently, a military statement said.
Sergeant Marina Evans, a spokeswoman for the US military, said it was not known whether the mine had been recently laid and was meant as an attack on the patrol or whether it was one of thousands of mines left over from a quarter-century of war.
''It's a sad day any time a comrade dies in this ongoing struggle," Brigadier General Jack Sterling, a deputy commander of the US-led coalition, said in the statement.
''The pain of the loss is tempered only by the knowledge that his efforts and sacrifice have brought closer the day when the growing democracy in Afghanistan removes the terrorists from this country forever," he said. ''While we mourn this loss, we will continue to work to ensure that Afghanistan remains a stable democracy."
The soldier's name was withheld pending notification of family members.
The death brought to 200 the number of US service members who have died in and around Afghanistan since 2001, according to military figures.
This year has been the deadliest for the 21,000-strong US-led coalition force.
Fighting escalated sharply ahead of Sept. 18 parliamentary elections, with more than 1,300 people killed, including hundreds of Taliban-led militants during the past seven months.
The vote itself passed off relatively peacefully despite Taliban threats of violence.
Four years after the invasion of Afghanistan, the US military says the insurgents are far from defeated but are recruiting younger fighters and staging smaller attacks as they suffer losses in clashes with coalition and Afghan forces.