NATO troops among casualties in Afghan suicide bombing

KHOST, Afghanistan Wed Jun 20, 2012 8:09am EDT

An Afghan man receives treatment at a hospital after a suicide bomb blast in Khost province June 20, 2012. A suicide bomber on a motorbike attacked a convoy of NATO troops in the eastern Afghan city of Khost on Wednesday killing 10 civilians, hospital officials said, the second attack on foreign forces in the troubled province this month. REUTERS/Anwarullah

An Afghan man receives treatment at a hospital after a suicide bomb blast in Khost province June 20, 2012. A suicide bomber on a motorbike attacked a convoy of NATO troops in the eastern Afghan city of Khost on Wednesday killing 10 civilians, hospital officials said, the second attack on foreign forces in the troubled province this month.

Credit: Reuters/Anwarullah

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KHOST, Afghanistan (Reuters) - - A suicide bomber struck a security checkpoint in Afghanistan's city of Khost on Wednesday, killing at least 16 people and wounding 30, police said, the latest attack to raise questions about stability in the volatile eastern region bordering Pakistan.

A spokesman for the NATO-led International Security Assistance Force said the casualties included foreign troops, but declined to say how many and whether that meant deaths or injuries.

Sardar Mohammad Zazai, police chief of Khost province, said the bomber, riding a motorbike, detonated his explosives at the checkpoint manned by local and foreign security forces.

The attack took place near a mosque in a crowded part of the city, which lies near the border with Pakistan. Women and children were among the wounded, local officials said.

Khost is a main area of operations for the Taliban-linked Haqqani militant group which the United States says has been behind a string of bombings in Kabul as well as attacks on foreign forces in the countryside.

A witness said that NATO and Afghan troops were using biometric data to screen residents of the provincial capital when the bomber struck.

"Then suddenly there was an explosion. I saw many killed and wounded including Afghan police and foreign troops. We carried some of them to the hospital," said Gul Mohammad, whose shop was near the scene of the blast.

Earlier this month, the Taliban claimed responsibility for an assault on a U.S. base in the same province. That attack killed one U.S. soldier, a U.S. contractor and one Afghan civilian, NATO officials later said.

NATO said 14 insurgents were killed in the June 1 attack, carried out by fighters wearing suicide-bomb vests and firing rocket-propelled grenades.

U.S. Defense Secretary Leon Panetta blamed the group for the attack on the base and vowed to fight them.

(Additional reporting by Missy Ryan; Writing by Sanjeev Miglani; Editing by Ed Lane)

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