Three British soldiers were killed during a suspected Taleban ambush on NATO forces in southern Afghanistan. The attack comes just one day after NATO took command of security operations in the country's insurgency-wracked southern provinces.
NATO spokesman Mark Laity says the well-armed insurgents ambushed the British patrol Tuesday morning in northern Helmand Province.
"Insurgents attacked with rocket propelled grenades and machine gun fire, obviously we are all very sad at this tragic event," said Laity.
The attack comes a day after NATO took over international security operations in the region, which is the Taleban's traditional stronghold.
The western alliance has around 8,000 troops in six southern provinces. Britain has committed more than 4,000 soldiers to the international force.
NATO officials say the operation is probably the alliance's toughest mission in its 57-year history.
Previously, U.S. forces had command of the security operations. The U.S. troops now will focus on the hunt for terrorist organizations and will support the NATO operation.
Attacks in the south have surged in recent weeks, including a series of suicide attacks and roadside bombs.
Security experts say Taleban insurgents are targeting NATO forces to try to discourage the relatively untested troops.
Spokesman Mark Laity says the alliance is obviously mourning Tuesday's loss of life but the latest attack has not diminished NATO's resolve.
"We knew the south was a challenging environment and sadly we saw evidence of that today but our mission is unchanged and our will is unchanged and we are going to carry on and do the job we set out to do," he said.
This has been Afghanistan's bloodiest year since 2001, when U.S.-led forces ousted the hard-line Islamic Taleban government.
The country's lawless southern provinces have been hardest hit by the violence this year.
In the past four months alone, more than 800 people, mostly militants, have been killed.