At least 10 civilians were killed in a suicide bomb attack in the southern province of Helmand. Two soldiers from the US led forces were killed in the same province late Thursday during clashes with Taliban insurgents.
A suicide attack targeting a NATO convoy in southern Afghanistan on Friday killed 10 civilians, a day after a major operation to drive Taliban militants out of a troubled district.
There was no immediate claim of responsibility for the blast in Helmand province, but the Taliban had vowed to launch suicide attacks to avenge this week's NATO and Afghan offensive in the neighbouring region of Kandahar.
Separately, two US-led coalition troops were killed on Thursday in an operation against insurgents in Helmand, the country's main opium growing area and a tough bastion of the hardline Taliban movement.
Helmand police chief Mohammad Hussain Andiwal said that in Friday's bombing, "the attacker walked up to a NATO convoy patrolling in a market in Girishk district and detonated explosives strapped to his body."
"Ten civilians were killed. We have no information at this stage of any casualties to NATO forces," Andiwal said.
The police chief blamed the attack on "enemies of Afghanistan" -- a term frequently used by Afghan officials to refer to the Taliban and their Al-Qaeda allies.
The Taliban, who were ousted from government by US-led forces in late 2001 for failing to hand over Osama bin Laden following the 9/11 attacks, have claimed almost all similar attacks in the past.
The rebels have stepped up an insurgency in the last two years, causing thousands of civilian casualties as well as killing foreign and Afghan troops trying to extend the writ of President Hamid Karzai's fragile government.
The government has been on the back foot since a major jail break a week ago in Kandahar, the birthplace of the Taliban regime, in which hundreds of insurgents escaped.
Taliban militants then streamed into villages in the Arghandab district of Kandahar province early this week, prompting the joint NATO and Afghan operation involving more than 1,000 troops.
The Afghan defence ministry said Thursday that all militants had been cleared from the district by the offensive, which left 56 militants, two Afghan soldiers and a civilian dead.
NATO did not confirm the casualties but said the "highly successful" operation involving air strikes would help allay concerns about the force's capabilities following the jail break.
The rebels viewed the district as a strategic stepping stone towards their goal of retaking Kandahar, the city where the movement rose to power in 1996 and is also Karzai's hometown.
Meanwhile the US-led coalition, which operates alongside NATO, announced its latest deaths on Friday, saying one soldier was killed instantly and another suffered gunshot wounds during operations in Helmand late Thursday.
It did not give their nationalities.
With nearly 70,000 foreign troops in Afghanistan, Karzai has come under growing pressure from his Western allies to improve security.
Foreign troop deaths in Afghanistan in May exceeded those in Iraq for the first time since the 2003 invasion of the Middle Eastern nation to topple Saddam Hussein.
Date created : 2008-06-20