KABUL (Reuters) - A NATO soldier died in combat in Afghanistan on Friday, a day after two were killed by roadside bombs, bringing the number of foreign troop deaths this week to 12 -- one of the bloodiest weeks for foreign forces in months.
The soldier died in a gunbattle in the south, but under a new NATO policy the alliance refused to say where because that could identify the nationality of the victim before the relevant government makes an announcement.
On Thursday, two NATO soldiers were killed in separate roadside bombings in the east, NATO said in a statement, without saying where, and a helicopter chartered by the U.S.-led coalition crash-landed due to technical problems southwest of Kabul.
At the crash site in Ghazni province, rescuers came under fire from suspected Taliban fighters.
Three Taliban were killed in the resulting gunbattle but there were no casualties among the rescuing troops or the five contractors aboard the aircraft.
The Taliban said they had shot down the helicopter but there was no way of independently verifying either account.
Violence has been rising through the spring following the annual winter lull after last year saw the bloodiest fighting since the Taliban's ouster in 2001.
Eight Canadian soldiers from the NATO-led International Security Assistance Forces (ISAF) and one from the separate U.S.-led coalition died in bombings in the south this week.
It has been the bloodiest single week for the U.S. and NATO -- currently also under U.S. command -- for several months.
In Berlin, Germany's defense minister said he had seen no sign of any spring offensive almost a month into spring.
"So far one cannot speak of any spring offensive by the Taliban," Jung told Reuters in an interview this week.
"There is, as in previous months, a large number of local armed incidents and attacks, of which around 90 percent are in the southern and eastern parts of the country."
NATO and Afghan forces have launched their own offensive, with about 5,000 troops, in the north of southern Helmand province, the opium heartland of the world's top producer.
Germany has about 3,000 troops in the country, mainly in the relatively safe north, and has resisted calls from NATO allies to send more and allow deployment in the south, where most of the fighting occurs.
Instead, it sent six Tornado reconnaissance jets this week. But security experts, including a former German officer, say the planes serve no tactical purpose and are only symbolic.
(Additional reporting by Louis Charbonneau in Berlin)