Afghanistan suicide blast kills 10

KABUL, Afghanistan (Reuters) — A suicide bomber killed 10 civilians and wounded at least 30 other people, including foreign troops, in a crowded market in southeastern Afghanistan on Sunday, officials said.

Taliban militants claimed responsibility for the attack.

As details emerged about the suicide blast, the governor of Ghazni province said Afghan and NATO forces killed about 30 Taliban fighters and arrested 12 others in Qara Bagh district on Saturday night.

“Unfortunately three police are missing and one is wounded,” the governor, Merajuddin Patan, told Reuters.

The suicide bomber’s apparent target was a convoy of U.S.-led coalition soldiers passing through the market in the city of Gardez in Paktia province, about 100 km (60 miles) south of the capital Kabul.

“Unfortunately we have a report today that at 9:40 a suicide bomber blew himself up in the Gardez roundabout,” the Afghan Interior Ministry said in a statement. “Ten civilians were martyred and about 30 others were wounded.”

A spokesman for the U.S.-led coalition said some of its soldiers were wounded in the attack but had no more details. The International Security Assistance Force, which leads thousands of foreign troops in Afghanistan, had initially said its troops were involved but later said that report was wrong.

Taliban insurgents have stepped up attacks after a traditional winter lull in fighting. The Taliban has said it has trained hundreds of suicide bombers.

“We claim responsibility for the (Gardez) attack. It was a suicide attack,” Taliban spokesman Zabiullah Mujahid said. “Our Afghan mujahid (holy warrior) carried it out.”

A spate of attacks in the last week followed the death of the insurgents’ top operational commander, Mullah Dadullah, in a raid last weekend. His death was considered the biggest blow to the Taliban since they were driven from power in 2001.

The Taliban also claimed responsibility for a suicide bombing on Saturday in a crowded market in the northern city of Kunduz. Nine people, including three German soldiers, were killed.

German troops patrol northern areas of Afghanistan, which have been relatively safe until recently.

“The Taliban are striving to restart their activities in the province,” said General Mohammad Ayub Salangi, the security commander in Kunduz province.

One of the 12 people injured in the Kunduz blast was in very serious condition while six others have been released from hospital, he said.

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