Suicide bomber kills 7 Afghans at NATO base

KABUL (Reuters) – A suicide bomb attack outside a NATO base killed seven civilians in southeastern Afghanistan on Wednesday, a local official said, a day after Taliban gunmen and bombers mounted a brazen strike in the same town.

Violence in Afghanistan has surged to its worst level since U.S.-backed Afghan forces overthrew the Taliban in 2001, despite increasing numbers of foreign troops.

Another 21 civilians were wounded in Wednesday's attack by a suicide bomber in a car packed with explosives. An official from the province of the same name said all the victims were laborers working at the NATO base on the outskirts of Khost township.

"U.S. forces ... have encircled the area. The toll may rise," provincial official Wazir Padshah told Reuters by telephone.

There were no immediate reports of damage or casualties among NATO-led troops.

Khost, on the porous southeastern border with Pakistan and separated by mountains from the rest of Afghanistan, houses a large base for NATO troops, mainly from the United States.


The attack occurred the morning after a group of Taliban suicide bombers attacked government buildings in the town, one of the most brazen raids by the insurgents in months.

Nine Afghans, including members of the security forces, and 11 insurgents were killed in Tuesday's raid, in which gunbattles were fought for hours. The militants also took a government building and held hostages for hours before being overpowered.

In a separate incident overnight, U.S. forces said they had accidentally killed two civilians and wounded four with air strikes and artillery fire launched against fighters who fired rockets at bases in southeastern Paktika province.

Six insurgents were killed in the strikes, they said.

Civilian casualties have been a cause of increasing anger in Afghanistan. Afghan officials say U.S. forces killed more than 100 civilians in strikes in Farah province in the west of the country last week.

Reuters obtained a list endorsed by the Afghan government with the names, ages and fathers' names of 140 people killed in a battle that included U.S. air strikes in the west of the country last week. Ninety-three of the dead were children -- the youngest an 8-day-old infant, and most of the rest were women.

A U.S. military spokesman disputed the toll and said some of the names may have been fake. He also blamed the Taliban for deliberately putting civilians in danger.

The Farah incident has prompted Afghan President Hamid Karzai to call for an end to air strikes, but he was rebuffed.

The Taliban have vowed to step up their attacks on Afghan cities this year while Washington is in the process of more than doubling its forces in Afghanistan, from 32,000 troops at the beginning of 2009 to a projected 68,000 by year's end.

A roadside bomb killed eight local workers from a construction firm in the eastern province of Nangarhar and another killed three builders working on a road in southern Zabul province, the Interior Ministry said.

The United States now has 47,000 troops in Afghanistan, along with 33,000 from other Western countries.

Most of the new U.S. troops are being deployed to the south to battle a worsening Taliban-led insurgency.

Source :
(Additional reporting by Peter Graff;
Writing by Sayed Salahuddin; Editing by Paul Tait and Alex Richardson)

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